The internet is full of hucksters telling you that learning to play the piano is easy. It's not, but it is fun. Every day I watch my students grow; the days turn into years. And, inch by inch progress is made.
If I can help you on your journey, call me.
I found it very helpful over the holidays to practice with a video camera recording my progress. I played for 5 minutes, and watched 5 minutes. The camera was positioned so that the keyboard of the xylophone was visible. I was able to see and hear what was working and what was not and adjust accordingly on the next round of playing.
If I can help you, call me.
The above is the final take in ten takes over 20 minutes.
Self assessment is nearly impossible. Our mind can play tricks on us. Research Dunning-Kruger effect for the science.
Here is a partial solution for music students.
1. Listen to professional recordings of your pieces. Frequently. You should know them as well as you know "happy birthday".
2. Record yourself and listen back to your efforts. Many students find this very difficult. I understand, but, push through the resistance. It is your best self assessment tool that you have.
3. Take lessons. Professional feedback is priceless.
If I can help you, please call me.
I. Dust off your instrument.
2. Watch some YouTube concerts featuring pianists playing the music you love.
3. Find your metronome.
4. Read some inspiration material about folks like yourself who have succeeded.
5. Start noodling on the piano. Review some old favorites. Explore some new music. Dream.
6. Plan practice time in your schedule to succeed.
The happiest students know what they want, why they want it. They've made time for it, and stuck with it. Come join us.
Jane is learning how to play chords to her favourite pieces. Here is how I've recommended she spends her time.
Practice time breakdown
25% scales and chords with metronome at various tempos
25% review of old work
25% new pieces
25% sight reading tunes off the internet. Notice the search terms in the image below. Click on images and viola things to practice.
I practice piano and drums daily, except Sundays when I rest. This summer I'm practicing bass. My student Barb asked me, "how do you practice?" This is what I said.
It depends on what musical skills and experiences you already have.
It depends on what expectations you have. If your desires are modest, yes you can likely make some simple music from watching online videos. If some level of musical competency is desired, online videos are a trickier proposition.
Why? No feedback.
Teachers give feedback, sequence learning material, correct technique, inspire when the going gets tough, and make the journey fun through collaborative learning.
If that sounds like what you need, call me. I can help.
Breakfast piano minute: An fantasy on an Austrian Folk Song from a slightly disheveled pianist.
Errors give feedback. As adults we understand errors present themselves in many ways. Sometimes they are hidden in disguise.
The most effective way of dealing with errors of execution on the piano bench is to step back and listen again to your practice recording, Make note in the score of the problem areas, and then consider the following.
The picture above is from The Musician's Way, a book I highly recommend.
Playing well ultimately means playing by ear.
Adult piano students tend to rely on their visual and analytical strengths. The parts that lead to professional success. Their tactile and auditory sides are often weak.
“Tactile, what’s that?”
“Playing by ear? I’m no good. Or really?” They either have little confidence, or they are unaware of how to use this skill already in their possession.
Piano studies are traditionally a visual study based around the authority of the text. Obedience and deference are the watchwords.
But to realize your musical dreams and reach your aspirations this side will have to be developed and refined until you can confidently rely on it.
A classical pianist executes a game plan. Every note has been planned and rehearsed. They have tried different approaches and made their decisions. They have learned every note by heart to a point where they can play with the music. What they hear they can execute. What they hear is based on years of study, practice, transcription, coaching feedback, concert attendance, theory and history studies and lots more.
A jazz pianist plays what they hear in their head. They never execute an idea and say, "dang, where did that come from?' No way, their minds are singing just slightly ahead of their hands. What they hear they can execute. What they hear is based on years of study, practice, transcription, coaching feedback, concert attendance, theory and history studies and lots more.
Playing imaginatively by ear requires a rich reservoir of musical ideas and experiences.
I can get you started by helping you play by ear.
Links: Sound Ways of Knowing: Music in the Interdisciplinary Curriculum : Janet R. Barrett Claire W. McCoy Kari K. Veblen : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
Know more than the notes. Exploring the questions of sociological context, compositional techniques, recorded history and more will add depth and sophistication to your playing and security to your memorization.
Click on the picture for more, or for the "science" click the link.
Here is a simple example:
1st Movement of Sonata in F minor op. 1
Who created it?
Beethoven, German Romantic era composer 1770–1827
When and where was it created?
1795 Vienna Austria
Why and for whom was it created?
Dedicated to his teacher Joseph Haydn. Apparently it was his first publicly published work.
What does it sound or look like?
Dramatic opening rocket type theme of the tonic, then dominant chord announces that there is a "new kid in town". Great dynamic contrasts throughout the movement keep us focused. A composition of a young man.
What kind of structure or form does it have?
Classic Sonata Form
What is its subject?
The interplay is between the 2 main themes in the exposition and their development through many key centers.
What is being expressed?
Youthful exuberance, drama and compositional skill demonstration of the classical era style.
What techniques did its creator use to help us understand what is being expressed?
An often overlooked and under appreciated activity is listening to our own practicing through audio playback and listening the great artists play our repertoire.
The first activity lets us hear the truth. Champions welcome feedback. I promise it won’t all be bad or embarrassing. Really!
The second activity gets the sound in our head out the hands. It familiarizes us to the musical language being spoken. A cornerstone of learning any new language.
Let’s dig down.
1. Listening to ourselves, as objectively as we can, helps us to appreciate our progress. And, it saves time by exposing in short order what needs attention. No point wasting time on the whole piece when it is obviously measure 22 through 26 that really needs our attention.
2. Listening to the music we are studying serves a number of purposes.
Swing jazz comping patterns verses Bebop comping patterns
Dynamics in early Classical sonatas verses late Romantic sonatas
It gets the sound in our ears though analytic listening. That is to say, what is going on here with:
After years of teaching and practicing I've concluded: we can’t play what we can’t hear.
Why study in the summer?
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted student and teacher of the drums.