Play Piano Today With Dr. J

Posts Tagged ‘piano lessons

The weather outside is still pretty frightful in many places in the US or just that end of winter dreary, so…………why not spend the last of those dark and dreary days practicing the piano?  Nothing to do outside, still too early for spring gardening and all the other excuses – so………..why not practice?

It is time to make great music and enjoy yourself.  Happy practicing! Dr. J

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Ah, the two “P” words – “Practice and Performance!”

The “showers and flowers” of the art of playing the piano. As the Spring Recital nears, I find the analogy of glorious spring flowers and glorious recital performances fitting.

Seedlings chosen = repertoire chosen

Soil prepared = fingerings prepared, analysis started

Plants placed in the soil = slow practice begins with hands alone

Plants are watered = encouragement from Jeannine, colleagues, family and friends

Plants take root = understanding of the piece comes together, parts together practice begins, chordal and cadential analysis continues

Plants buffeted by April showers (or rain, heavy wind and hail) = frustration over the number of repetitions needed to learn a cadential phrase or a difficult fingering start to creep into the practice routine

Plants bask in the sun and start to bud = the slow repetitions with the metronome, the careful work to avoid making a mistake more than three times starts to bring success with what was a difficult piece

Plants send out more roots and buds start to open =  the beauty of the notes now starting to sound like beautiful music

Buds become flowers = the diligent practice pays off and the full piece is played for Jeannine with success

Plant shows its full beauty and glory with every perfectly formed flower surrounded by beautiful foliage = the music chosen, carefully practiced, nurtured through storm and doubt, now comes to full bloom and is shared with family and friends

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.

From time to time, I use a recording device in my piano teaching.  It has been met with mixed results for my students.  Some students enjoy hearing themselves play and are amazed at their progress.  Other piano students are appalled at their lack of progress and their shoddy playing.

The students who find the recorded piano lessons helpful are usually those who follow good practice routines and who diligently and carefully prepare repertoire within their abilities.  These students accept the level of their playing prior to hearing their recordings.  They have a soundscape in their mind that is close to their actual abilities and skills.

These students are usually pleasantly surprised by the quality of their piano playing and are eager to accept feedback.  They more quickly make changes and want to record themselves again and again to hear the improvements they have made.  These students mirror their teacher’s experience with a recorder as a device to learn from and design ways to improve their piano playing.

The students who find the recording of their piano lessons stupefying at best and simply awful at most are those who have attempted to learn pieces beyond their current abilities.  These students “hear” themselves playing on a much higher level than in reality they are.  The recording points out flaws on the most basic level – note inaccuracies, incorrect rhythms, and great flexibility in tempo to compensate for lack of the technical skills needed to play the repertoire they have chosen.

These students sadly realize they have not been applying good piano practice techniques to repertoire more suited to their abilities.  Hence, their goals and their ways of achieving those goals have to be redesigned.  This is difficult for many beginning adult pianists. However, once the student has overcome the shock of actually hearing the sounds they are creating in real time, they are usually eager more open to pursuing their goals in a more appropriate manner.

To record or not record a beginning pianist’s lesson?  It is exaltation for some and peril turning to discovery and skill building for others.  Recording is a wonderful tool for a beginning student 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.

What does a person need to become a pianist?  A piano and a desire to play?  Or is there more to it than that?

Definitely a keyboard instrument is a necessity.  Having an instrument on which to develop your skills and share your music is a must if a person is to become a pianist.

Having a method to study and a teacher to guide you are also important.

However, most everything else that allows a person to become a pianist is intrinsic.  These are values that come from inside a person.  We will say that the first intrinsic value, the innate desire is there to become a pianist, but what else is necessary?

Ability
Attention to detail
Drive
Effort
Goal Orientation
Passion
Patience
Perseverance
Time
Understanding

To understand what it takes to become a pianist a person must take the journey in his or her own way, using his or her own abilities, fulfilling his or her own dreams, passions and desires with effort, patience and perseverance in his or her own time.

Visit Play Piano Today With Dr. J if you are ready to start the piano playing adventure.



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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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