Play Piano Today With Dr. J

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Jeannine at Piano-JPG-sm-webWelcome would-be-piano players, pianists, musicians and music-lovers to Dr. J’s blog.  Check back often to see what my latest thoughts on playing the piano and making music are on any given day.  Enjoy.  Talk to you soon.     Dr. J

PS  See what you can have at Play Piano Today With Dr. J

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.

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.

I have the privilege of teaching a wonderful group of adult piano and organ students on a weekly basis.  Some of my students are beginners, some are intermediate and some are advanced.  The reasons they are taking piano lessons vary.  Some of the adult piano students are taking lessons to enhance and broaden their skills, some are learning pedagogical techniques, some are studying theory and others are learning to play the piano simply for pure pleasure and enjoyment.

Each of these students brings to their piano lessons a variety of joys, challenges, needs and desires.  I have to but listen to them and to their playing to gain a wealth of information.  So, what do I learn every week from my piano students?  Patience, perseverance, fortitude, determination, discovery, happiness, pride, knowledge and wisdom.  How wonderful it is to be a teacher of piano.

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.

The pentatonic method for learning to play songs on the piano is based on the pentatonic scale.  This musical scale has five notes to an octave and it just happens that these five notes correspond precisely to the five black keys of the piano.  With only five note choices instead of the eight in a diatonic scale or the twelve in a chromatic scale, the novice pianist is able to experience success more quickly.

Using the pentatonic method, the beginning pianist is limited to five notes only of a specific intervallic grouping. Those five notes correspond exactly to the five black keys on the piano.  These keys are easy to see and locate.  They are also arranged in two different groups.  They are arranged in a group of two black keys and a group of three black keys.  These note combinations are visually easy to recognize.

Not only are the five keys easy to recognize, but they are also tactilely comfortable for the adult beginner.  The fingers of each hand can easily cover two groups of the five different black keys.  This hand placement allows for ease in fingering. The hands can often remain in one position for a long series of notes.  Therefore, success comes more quickly for the beginning pianist because the method deals only with learning to move the fingers in a restricted note range.  The learner quickly builds technique when finger movement is limited in using the pentatonic method to play 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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