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.
Dr. Hugo Norden, professor emeritus, coached me in Baroque counterpoint and harmony as a young naïve overconfident private student. He was a wise man; he knew how to handle characters like me.
Mr. Story we are who we listen to. So, pick carefully" Dr. Hugo Norden 1981 Boston
The law of association restated. I’ve spent forty plus years considering that advice. My conclusions:
Our musical environment habitualizes our expectations of how music should sound and be presented. It will raise our expectations in both ourselves and what we ask and expect of others. It will also support our auxiliary studies such as theory and history. In short, inspire us to do better.
To whom are you listening? Do your listening habits support your music studies or distract? Do you associate with other like-minded individuals such as fellow students, or concert goers?
If I can help, call me.
What happens when we practice piano everyday? Obviously we improve but let’s do the math.
Consider 2 students: John and Sally. Both students practice and arrive at class prepared each week. Each has done the following during the week.
You get the picture.
John practices 30 minutes a day. Sally 75 minutes. What happens?
If I can help you, please give me a call.
All I can add is this. Say and do these things long before they are teens. Set and normalize these healthy behaviors/patterns when they are young.
Keeping your positive attitude on your ability to learn the piano
3 Mini-shorts Breakfast piano minute
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.
Short, charming, relatively easy, level 5 and 6. What can a harpsichordist teach pianists? How to pace the music, notice the subtle flexibility to the flow of the music.
In the 2nd video the performer talks about the works.
How does a impatient student find the patience?
How does the piano teacher maintain the students enthusiasm while working with this constraint?
As long as we find time to work on core skills, it's great to explore repertoire way over our heads. We will have fun and learn a lot from the experience. But, if we neglect to cheerfully embrace the discipline of mastering core skills, we will grow bored and discouraged. In the end it's faster to learn the skills, embrace this discomfort of hard work than to jump all over the place.
Core music skills:
Here is a short story from my parallel passion of drumming. I devote a large chunk of my practice time on the core skills and fundamentals of drumming. I spend hours a week on time and tone. Yep, left, right, left, right or LLRR or RLRR and LRLL. I listen intently to the results. I analysis my movements. And on and on. I've learned to be patient. I've made some real progress over the last decade of study. I'm confident I will make more.
To learn more check this out: What do drum teachers practice? (superfundrumlessons.com)
Let me help you.
Call me. Let's get started.
www.finchcocks.com/Finchcock Piano Courses UK
One week of piano among other pianists with 1st rate tutors, food, and wine.
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Sometime the stress from the pandemic is a bit too much. It can lower our enthusiasm for practice. So, what to do? Assuming you are not suffering from clinical depression, in which case please seek professional help. This is not the place.
But for the rest of us. Try some or all the following.
In the meantime, call me if you would like to meet online. I've dozens of students happily progressing on zoom.
Will I ever get there?
An adult student is working on the scherzo of Haydn’s piano sonata in F major Hob.XVI:9 A fun work from RCM level 4. It goes fast, it’s light, it’s fun under the fingers. It reminds me of joyful summer memories as a kid riding our bikes as fast as we can go, just celebrating the joy of movement and being alive.
How does one play like that?
Can I ever go as fast?
Another story. I’ve a young teenage student preparing to sit for her level 8 exam later this month. One of her pieces is Solfeggio in C minor by CPE Bach an extremely fast and demanding piece of music. She runs like the wind through it. The power of youth. Can my 61-year fingers play that fast? Nope. Period. It’s as absurd as looking on while high schoolers compete in the 100-yard dash. Yeah, I can still run fast, but not like that.
Moral of the story. Be at peace with it.
Now can we learn to play faster. Of course. Can we ever go as fast? Maybe, maybe not.
Now back to Haydn. Pianists who play well, including fast, have worked patiently in the following areas.
If I can help you on your journey, please give me a call.
Time to dream again. Covid-19 will abate this year; the vaccines are coming, spring will arrive. Time to get musically ready to share our music with the world again.
Here are 10 ideas to mull over.
I'm 15 or so, I've been playing a year or two. I "practice" in quotes all the time. She is cute, she sings, she needs an accompanist for the church strawberry social. I step up. I'm waaaaaay over my head. But keen to impress.
We practice, I survive. But I am about to learn the difference between the practice room and the stage. In hindsight I imagine it is like the difference between basic training and real combat.
It's a beautiful day, they haul a small piano outside on the grass. The back of the piano faces the singer and the audience. We step up. I am soooo nervous, so underprepared that my right leg starts to bounce uncontrollably, audibly, banging the underside of the piano. People are looking around for the source of the noise. I'm deadpan behind the piano.
It mercifully ends.
1. "Superbia et ante ruinam" Pride goes before the fall. But the show must go on.
2. Never underestimate the power of shameless audacity in a show biz career.
3. It's harder than it looks. The magic of the performing arts is the illusion it is easy.
Lockdown 2.0 Oh boy!
The article above supplies some great ideas to keep us practicing. I invite you to click the photo to read the article.
Listen to great music. A musical truism: "we are who we listen to".
Try this on your next new piece.
It might. If the instrument you play now is uneven, out of tune, and has missing notes, joy will be dampened. Chopin is reported to have said, “play the best instrument you can when learning.”
Here are other thoughts on staying in the game:
These are problems all musicians/students must deal with from time to time or in these times.
If I can help you, let's chat.
Students often believe that I must have started early in life with lots of natural talent. Let me clear this up.
I am proof practice works.
I made it into Berklee with 4 years of piano under my belt, but it included 2 years of professional gigging in rock and country bands in the North Bay region. A lot of gigs. Plus, my basement jazz band. That made the difference I figure. But who knows, recordings do not exist.
I got through Berklee as a composition major. I thought about being a performance major, but that required serious practice. Something I was not interested in. But I continued playing gigs during those years. A lot of gigs. Some exciting gigs. I was a busy journeyman. I could sight-read just about anything. I showed up on time ready to play. I was pleasant to be around. Where did that put me in the Berklee pecking order? Turns out near the top. I made it one year to the number 2 band.
So, when did I learn to practice?
Signed up for my Grade 10 exam. My very first piano exam ever. I couldn't fake it. I had to play it. I put a couple of thousand hours of focused practice in. I read every book I could find on how to practice. How many books? Chapters bookstore sent me Christmas present. That is how many.
1. Try to finish level 6 theory, it will really help us to communicate as musicians and build your understanding of the music you play.
2. Summer is a good time to explore music history. A good introduction for classical piano students is found on Audible.ca https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-23-greatest-solo-piano-works.html check www.audible.com I found it there for a really fair price.
3. YouTube score watching; paying attention to one element at a time: articulations , dynamics, tempo
4. General piano skills
How many hobbies can one-person juggle?
Depends. I juggle one. I had two, but Covid19 put an end to that.
I’ve students who try to juggle 3 or more while holding down jobs, spouses, children, and life. They often looked stressed. How do my less stressed students do it? Here are some tactics they follow:
Do you remember why you were attracted to piano in the first place? Put up a post it note on the piano to keep it front of mind.
This will pass,
Have fun, this will pass.
Piano at the bench
What to practice and why
Finally, be patient, enjoy the process.
If I can help, call me.
Practicing in the times of the Covid-19 outbreak is going to be a challenge for some.
Some lucky people will use the extra time to jump right in. For this group I suggest ramping up practice amount slowly to avoid injury. The book, “The Musician’s Way” suggests increasing practice time 10% per week to avoid problems. Warming up before hand with a short cardio and stretching routine will also be beneficial.
For those too stressed to practice and/or focus try these tips:
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.