Play Piano Today With Dr. J

Archive for July 2009

You have just found a new piece of piano music you want to learn.  Now what?  How should you approach this wonderful new music so you can get the satisfaction of playing it successfully in the least amount of time?  What are the steps that must be taken to solve the problem of making a bunch of black dots and lines on a white sheet of paper sound like beautiful music?

Before playing a note on the piano, do a mental analysis of the piece.  Start at the top of the music page with the very first marks you see on the top of the page.  Ask and answer the following questions:

1.  What is the title of the piece
2.  Who composed the piece
3.  When was the piece composed

Now move on to the very first part of the music score itself.  What do you see?  Again, ask and answer the following questions:

1.  What clef(s) are represented
2.  How many sharps or flats are given
Is the piece in a major key
Is the piece in a minor key
3.  What is the time signature
4.  Is there a tempo marking indicated
by word description or
by a metronome marking

Once this initial mental analysis away from the keyboard is complete you have solved the first problem of learning a new piece of piano music. The next step is to incorporate these discoveries into the actual playing of the piece on the piano.

I  hope my piano students learn from me –
How to share their piano music
How to find joy in making music

It is important to me that my students share their piano music with their colleagues, friends and family through the recital venue.  When they share their piano music recitals they move to a different musical level.  They take on the role of interpreter and performer.  The music they have worked so hard to learn becomes theirs and theirs alone.

The most important thing I hope my students learn from me is that making music is a joy-filled experience.  Creating beautiful sounds is a work of art – a work of pleasure – a work of joy.

Oh and did I mention, I also hope my piano students learn patience, perseverance, overcoming challenges, enthusiasm, happiness, knowledge and wisdom from me.  Yes, the give and take between teacher and piano student is continuous.  The learning and knowledge are constantly shared.  That is why I continue to teach adult students to play the piano.

I hope my piano students learn

How to choose a piece of piano music
How to work through a piece of music
How to find “the music” in a particular piano piece
Choosing an appropriate piece of music can be difficult for an adult pianist. Adults have definite ideas about the music they want to learn.  They are musically literate, they listen, they search the Internet, they buy music, they share music, and they find pieces they want to play now!  It is my job to help them discover the beauty in pieces that are within their technical capabilities.

Once the piano piece or pieces are chosen, it is then my task to help them expediently work through the chosen music.  To look for patterns, to work out fingerings, to assist with note reading skills and to make the learning of the piece a constant pleasure.

Once the notes are in place and the piano piece is beginning to take shape, I help my piano students discover the music in the music.  To play the piece more from an emotional perspective then simply an intellectual viewpoint.  We look at dynamics and nuances of phrases and rhythms.  We look for ways to be creative with the black dots on the page and ways to free themselves from the strictures of simply obeying the written symbols when learning to play the piano.

I have been teaching adults how to play the piano and the organ for many years.  It has been challenging and satisfying at the same time.  Every week I learn so much from my students including patience, perseverance, how to overcome challenges, enthusiasm, happiness, knowledge and of course wisdom.

But, what is it I hope my students learn from me?  I hope they learn

How to choose a piece of piano music
How to work through a piece of music
How to find “the music” in a particular piano piece
How to share their music
How to find joy in making music

Oh and did I mention, I also hope my piano students learn patience, perseverance, overcoming challenges, enthusiasm, happiness, knowledge and wisdom from me.  Yes, the give and take between teacher and piano student is continuous.  The learning and knowledge are constantly shared.  That is why I continue to teach adult students how to play the piano.

So, you are already playing the piano – you have found the joy of investing time and energy into a long-held dream – you have found the joy of sharing your music with others – you have found the joy of starting a project and seeing it through to a beautiful conclusion – you have found the joy of stress reduction and relaxation – you have found the joy of meeting other pianists and sharing your music stories with them – you have found that playing the piano creates joy.

So, now what are you doing to share the joy?   What are you doing to get more people interested in playing the piano? of experiencing the same joy as you have in playing the piano?

I am sure you – like I – have often heard the words “I always wanted to learn to play the piano.”  Well, it is time to spread the joy.  Invite these would-be piano players to your recital.  Make a YouTube video and share it with your would-be pianist friends.  Tell these would- be piano players about “Play Piano Today with Dr. J” and invite them to discover for themselves the total joy in learning to play the piano.

So, what do I learn every week from my piano students?

Perseverance – steady and continued action or belief, usually over a long period and especially despite difficulties or setbacks.  Learning to play the piano as an adult can be a daunting task, yet week after week, I have students who continue to diligently practice to attain technical proficiency in their piano studies.

Patience – the ability to endure waiting or delay without becoming annoyed or upset.  Learning to play the piano as an adult is a slow process and often the technical ability to reproduce the sounds heard in recordings or in the student’s mind is slow in coming.  The patience required to achieve a modicum of success in playing the piano is immense.

Fortitude – strength and endurance in a difficult situation.  Learning to play the piano as an adult is not accomplished by playing at the piano for a few minutes a week.  It requires mastering difficult eye-hand coordination skills which takes an inordinate amount of time at the piano.

Determination – firmness of purpose, will, or intention.  My adult piano students set goals for each series of lessons.  To fulfill those goals and dreams requires a firm resolve to continue practicing and studying even when the desired results are slow to attain.

The successful pianist has developed the skill of memorization by using visual, aural, or tactile memorization skills.  The successful pianist knows in what way they most fluently memorize a piece and use the other two skills to enhance and enlarge their memories.  A successful pianist combines all three memorization skills to their complete advantage.

The successful pianist easily and willingly shares their music.  They enjoy giving their gift and allowing the ideas of the composer to flow off the written page into glorious sound.

Are you a successful pianist?  Do you have a toolkit of skills, traits, and habits to aid your journey of studying the piano?  Start today to create your personal toolkit filled with self-discipline, technical skills, reading skills, memorization skills and performance skills.  Allow your joy to show in the playing of the piano.



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    • bhundley1: I'm interested in your elaborating on the "fingering" aspect of practice. Are you a fan of Czerny, for instance, in terms of building up dexterity wi
    • promotionmusic: Thanks for your response. Congratulations to you on the work you are doing in the piano world.

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