Play Piano Today With Dr. J

Posts Tagged ‘online music lessons

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.

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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, and reading skills.

A successful pianist has achieved success because of self-discipline.  The successful pianist has learned the importance of regular practice and has learned exactly how to use their practice time efficiently and prudently to achieve a goal.  The self-discipline may come in the form of a practice schedule closely followed day after day or not allowing oneself to attempt pieces beyond their current abilities knowing that with continued self-discipline and goal setting the more difficult piece will be learned at the right time.

The successful pianist has achieved success because of diligently practicing technical exercises.  They know the importance of technical warm-ups and finger dexterity and strengthening exercises and regularly make those part of each practice session.  A successful pianist knows how to work out difficult passages by trying various fingering combinations.  They look for creative ways to move the arms, hands, and fingers to create the desired musical effects.

The successful pianist has achieved success because they have developed music reading skills.  They carefully peruse a piano piece before playing it to make mental notations of key, rhythmic relationships, harmonies, dynamics, and tempo markings.  They develop the trait of looking ahead and of anticipating the flow of the music to and through the cadential points to the conclusion of the music.

The successful pianist has achieved success because they have honed the power of musical analysis.  A piano piece is more than a group of black dots, lines and instructive words on a page.  The successful pianist can hear in their mind the move and flow of the music through harmonic analysis, key and rhythmic relationships, dynamics and tempo.  Before the successful pianist plays an audible note on the piano, they know what sounds they want to create on the piano.

Every productive piano practice session is composed of several things.  First, each practice session should have a specific goal in mind.  Is that goal to be able to play a specific cadence of a repertoire piece successfully or to work out an intricate rhythm, or to practice technique only with exercises and scales or to work on memory?  The possibilities are endless, but every piano practice session should have a goal.

Once the goal is set, make sure you know how the finished passage or exercise, or cadence will sound.

Second devise a piano practice plan.  Determine how much time you will spend on specific activities or when you will let yourself move to the next challenge.

What methods will you use?  How will you get to your goal – by using a metronome, by practicing rhythms away from the keyboard, by playing short sections, or by working on fingering?

Determine how you will know when you are finished for the piano practice session.  Has the timer run out or are you finished when you are tired or when you have accomplished your goal.

Answer those questions and your piano practice sessions will be a sucess and it will be a joy to make music on the piano.

Do you want to get better at your piano playing?  There’s really only one way to get better and enjoy your playing more and more every day and that is to invoke the first “P” word – practice.  If you do something in a concentrated focused fashion on a daily basis, you will get better – and that includes playing the piano.
Once you have achieved success you need to share your new found piano skills and that is the second “P” word – performance.  Share your piano music with your friends, your family, or with the world via YouTube.

The two “P” words – practice and performance – the two important words in the study of the piano.

After answering the questions, “What did I do well?” and “What can I do differently?”  you must ask yourself, “How can I make changes in my piano practice and performance?”

The third question is one that is also often slighted.  Piano students are excellent at knowing what should be done better but knowing how to make changes to create better sounding music is often a mystery.

What are the root causes of piano music played poorly or with mistakes?  Incorrect notes, inaccurate rhythm, and carelessly performed cadences form the core of poorly played piano exercises and repertoire and keep a pianist from progressing.  In addition, poor fingering, sloppy pedaling, tempo variations,and little regard for dynamics and articulations exacerbate practice sessions and inevitably lead to lackluster performances.

It has been said that an incorrect note played three times simultaneously takes thirty three repetitions to correct.  It is imperative that notes be played correctly on the piano from the start.

The playing of inaccurate rhythms can undermine the effectiveness of any piano piece.  Rhythmic accuracy is attained with the same careful attention to detail as note accuracy.

Analyzing cadences away from the piano keyboard to determine the movement of the bass line and the chordal progression is a must.  Knowing the make-up of a cadence before putting it on the keyboard will help the pianist avoid a change of tempo or the playing of incorrect notes in these most difficult but most necessary parts of any piano piece.

Attack the root causes of poor performance in every practice session.  Make note accuracy, rhythmic precision and well-prepared cadences an absolute must in every practice or performance of exercises or repertoire of the piano.

Playing the piano is a multi-sensory experience.  It involves three of the senses – tactile, visual and aural.  To really create music, a pianist must engage each of those senses to be successful.   And, to learn to play the piano, it is equally as important to engage all the senses from the first day of study.

Learning to play the piano using the pentatonic scale is a method of study that appeals especially to adult learners.  Why?  Because it is immediately gratifying and because success comes easily through a multi-sensory learning style approach.  Playing the piano is a multi-sensory experience.  It involves three of the senses – tactile, visual and aural.  To really create music, a pianist must engage each of those senses to be successful.   And, to learn to play the piano, it is equally as important to engage all the senses from the first day of study.
Adults just coming to the piano for the first time, have preconceived notions of what they should be able to play.  They have the sounds of great music in their ears, they know good piano playing, and because they are adults, they are convinced they can and will easily learn to play the piano.  Unfortunately, traditional methods for learning the piano can quickly turn an excited beginner into a frustrated upset adult who will probably never touch the piano again.

The pentatonic method works best with an adult who is ready to play, is ready to discover how to create songs and is ready to develop technique to play those songs quickly.  The pentatonic method uses only five notes – in fact these keys are visually very easy to find as they are the five black keys on a piano.  Tactilely, the hands easily cover all five of the keys in a relaxed natural position.  And, best of all when simply creating music by just letting the fingers “wander” over the keys, everything sounds right.  There are no “clinkers” – just beautiful sounds – pleasing especially to that person who is attuned to their aural sense.  This is the perfect method for the adult learner – for the learner who wants and needs to be successful quickly – who wants to make music now – and who wants to play songs on the piano today.



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  • freeonlinemusiclessons: Hey nice blog. I just picked up you RSS FEEDS. Check out my new website, you’ll like it! http://freeonlinemusiclessons.com
  • 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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