Play Piano Today With Dr. J

Posts Tagged ‘piano

The glory of Spring has arrived.  With sunny warm days, the trees and flowers blooming, and more light every day, there is a new energy in the air.  Make sure you capture that energy as you move toward the realization of your Spring goals.

Just a few quick practice reminders:

  • Schedule your practice sessions in advance so they become a priority in your day
  • Plan your practice sessions carefully
  • Warm-up with a favorite piece or technical studies to focus your mind
  • Remember to take breaks
  • Don’t practice when you are tired
  • Always reward yourself with a favorite piece to end your practice session
  • Enjoy yourself!
    Dr. Jeannine Jordan, teacher, coach, and concert organist
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Jess Smith, former teacher and Executive Director of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, resides in Seal Rock, Oregon where he teaches piano and writes.  It is his thoughts regarding the importance of rhythm in music performances that follow here.

By the time I was studying seriously in New York, a piano teacher named Abby Whiteside  was causing a sensation in the piano teaching world with her first book THE INDISPENSABLES OF PIANO PLAYING.   I was already firmly established in the “old school” of the piano world, but through childhood experience was very much aware that my basic approach was not “fingers” finding keys, but a surging rhythm coming from the entire body which flows through the trunk, the upper arm to the lower arm, and thence out through the fingers.

Abby Whiteside

Whiteside said that “it is the body as a whole which transfers the idea of music into the actual production of music.”2 This connected with my childhood perception of the movements of Cousin Bea’s hands over the keys, my own playing the drums, the bow-arm of the cellist, and the river of tap-flow from the tap dancer.

Whiteside said further that  ”A basic rhythm is the only possible means by which the entire playing mechanism (which consists of the muscles of the arm, the bony structure of the hand, and the fingers) can be brought into full play.  A basic rhythm is the only possible over-all coordinator, for it is not merely the instigator of beautiful musical production, but it is the sole factor that can successfully translate the image in the ear and the emotion which must be at the bottom of all beautiful music into a function of the whole body.”

Abby Whiteside had  discovered, enlarged, and made into a comprehensive Theory of Piano Playing the very impressions that gradually gathered throughout my entire childhood, and eventually became the basis for my turning to a Music Career.    She, too, knew that music making at the piano is not a note-by-note march of the fingers finding appropriate keys, but a surging, compelling, and controlling flow of rhythmic impulse which comes from the entire body.

Reference:  ABBY WHITESIDE On Piano Playing:  INDISPENSABLES OF PIANO PLAYING and MASTERING THE CHOPIN ETUDES AND OTHER ESSAYS. Amadeus Press, Portland, Oregon. 1997.

Jeannine Jordan, concert organist and teacher of piano and organ

 

 

JS Bach – a composer’s name that most everyone knows.  Didn’t he compose that “scary” Phantom music?  Well, yes – that amazing piece called the Toccata and Fugue in d minor for the King of Instruments – the organ – is that “scary” and magnificent piece of music.

Bach’s music holds our attention and our imagination in the 21st century.  Yet Bach lived over three hundred years ago.  His music endures because it is intricate – it challenges the listener to keep listening;  it is emotional – why else is the Toccata called “scary” music;  it is exciting – hundreds and thousands of notes keep players focused and the listener intrigued;  it is masterful – no other composer has come close to the sheer volume of perfect music composed in a lifetime;  it demands our attention – both as a performer and a listener.

So take time this week – explore the music of this genius, this consummate musician, this master – listen to a CD, attend a performance or better yet – play one of his magnificent compositions on the organ or piano.

Speaking from personal experience, I would much rather play for a live audience then have a recording made of my piano performance. Something about turning on a recording device puts my nerves on edge a bit.  My mind keeps turning over the fact that the recording can be heard again – and again – and again, whereas a live performance is heard once and gone.  It is but a memory in my mind.

I have, however, found the recording of my piano practice sessions at once eye or ear-opening and productive.  Oh, and did I mention, humbling?  In my undergraduate days I carried with me to nearly every practice session a cassette recorder.  I practiced in what I thought was a careful and diligent manner, then recorded my efforts hoping to match what my mind told me I had just mastered.

Often the recorded “performance” of that practice session’s goals was in reality far from the lofty piano sounds my mind had created.  That little recorder, though, did not discourage but encouraged me.  I continued practicing the piano and worked to discover more creative ways to shorten the practice time needed. Finally I heard in reality what my mind had been playing long before the fingers could create the sound on 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.

I discovered in all my years of teaching that what people really want to do from the first time they sit down at a piano is play a song. Right now, today.

Most people in our busy world don’t have the time for traditional weekly lessons, traditional lessons in which scales and exercises come first and the actual playing of a song might take weeks or months.  They want the thrill of success in hearing themselves play songs immediately.  They want to amaze their friends with their playing prowess.  They are looking for a way to quickly master songs and then deal with the how and why of playing later.

So, with those piano players in mind, the rote pentantoic method was created.  This method is a really enjoyable and successful way to do just what many people want to do and that is to play a song on the piano today.  The pentatonic method would allow that, but the challenge remained of how to get the information to would be piano players quickly and efficiently.

Once I became aware of just how many people want to play the piano without the encumbrances of a teacher and weekly scheduled lesson times, I looked for a solution for those students.   I developed the concept of downloadable piano tutorials.

With these tutorials, the student decides when to try the ideas, and better yet, these tutorials can be viewed right in the comfort of the student’s home using their own keyboard or piano.   Never again does a person have to make sure to block out every Thursday to get to the studio of a piano teacher halfway across town and back.

These pentatonic method tutorials start exactly where would be pianists want to start with playing songs.  They do not start with the, this is a G on the treble clef, stuff.  The idea is to play the piano today.  Not tomorrow or next week.  Today.

Downloadable tutorials give the would be pianist all the information and skills needed to wow their friends and amaze themselves.  The tutorials let the beginner hear how awesome your song will sound and show the student just how to get these mind blowing skills.

The tutorials can be reviewed time and again until the player is You Tube ready. Besides that, learning to play songs on the piano with the rote pentatonic method really is fabulously fun.  So start playing the piano using the pentatonic method and play songs on 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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