July 31, 2020

Learning is not a one-way street. 

Teachers teach students, but students also teach teachers.

I was reminded of that recently while working on one of Haydn's last sonatas, No. 52 in Eb.  I was noticing how he was using more of the piano than his earlier works, fuller chords, lots of 32nd notes, and greater contrast between dramatic and lighter sections.  As I played, I thought, "this reminds me of Beethoven!"  

I always teach my students that Mozart and Haydn were friends and influenced each other's compositional style.  And I also teach my students that Haydn was Beethoven's teacher   

As I worked on the Haydn Sonata, I realized that it was composed after Beethoven had been studying with...

March 3, 2020

I recently helped run a local music festival/audition for area music students K-12 grades.  Some Festivals and Auditions are very serious and intense with students playing 2 or more memorized pieces and possibly scales and chords.  This particular festival was for one memorized movement from a Sonatina or Sonata.  It was an opportunity for students to prepare a piece well from memory and be evaluated by a music teacher, all with music degrees, and some were college professors.

Since I was behind the scenes, I had an opportunity to look over what judges wrote about students, which in itself is a reflection of the judge's aesthetics and values.  Some judges always want pieces FASTER, with MORE or Mo...

January 1, 2020

One of the sweetest gifts a student gave me years ago was a poem she had a written for an English class titled "The Music Machine."  It was not about how the piano works, which we had discussed in lessons, but showed how much the student loved music and related to the piano.

On a more practical level, the piano is a machine, and it does require an understanding of how the machine works and how good body mechanics can help a musician play the piano easier and better.

I always discuss with students that the keys on the piano are levers (one of the simple machines most students learn in elementary school).  You press a key which flips a hammer up to strike strings that vibrate and create sound.  How f...

December 2, 2019

You make an arrangement for them! 

One of my students came to her lesson and was trying to play "Lift Every Voice" by ear. "I REALLY want to learn this song," she told me. So-- I made a late beginner arrangement for her. Also known as the "Black National Anthem," the words are a poem written in honor of Lincoln's birthday.  I am always excited when students are moved by music and it's message,and making an arrangement (which I can then post on sheetmusicplus.com) is a no-brainer.

I use the Finale music program, and can knock out an easy level arrangement in a couple hours (going back over it to correct mistakes).  I can even download it as a PDF and email it to the student!

P.S.  Black history month is February, s...

November 8, 2019

Learning by rote versus learning musical skills such as reading music, technical skills, understanding styles.

September 15, 2019

Although it has happened many times in my years of teaching, my heart sank again this summer when I received this text the night before the student's lesson. This student was a bright eight year old who had done quite well in her two years of lessons, and had a lot of potential to become a really good musician.

Students begin and end lessons all the time.  Sometimes I suggest to students or parents that lessons be discontinued -- they have not made progress for a long time, or they are clearly stressed about other life events, or (rarely) the relationship between the family and myself is not constructive for either the student or me.

But WAY too often, the parent is letting a child (...

September 12, 2019

Need an opening song for your voice/piano or elementary/middle school performances?  I used "Now Is The Time" as a welcoming song on my Spring Piano Recital (I encourage my piano students to sing -- it teaches them phrasing and emotion in music). My parents and students loved the humor, truth and beauty of this piece! Easy and fun to learn. Available on sheet music plus with just the piano/ voice score, or as a reproducible classroom packet for choirs.

Many instrumentalists are uncomfortable singing, but if they start at a young age, they are more likely to continue into their teens and adulthood.  It is so much easier to understand the expressiveness of music if you sing, even if just occasionally.  If I have s...

July 11, 2019

 You know the driver that "puts the pedal to the metal" all the time?  Never slows down, does not know what a brake is?  Eventually that driver is going to run over something.  Likewise, the pianist who keeps their foot on the pedal all the time or way too much is running over the rest of their musical expressiveness! 

Why do we use the damper pedal on the piano?  It can make Romantic period pieces and Popular pieces sound fuller and more resonant.  It can provide color in Impressionistic pieces, blending harmonies and making the sound more fluid.   The pedal can connect when our fingers cannot, such as with a jump bass.  It can help us create accents when we just pedal on downbeats....

April 25, 2019

As private music teachers prepare their summer schedules, there is always a family that will say, "we will not be taking lessons during the summer: we are travelling, taking a break, taking camps, etc. etc."  There are two issues that arise from this decision: the student loses skills they have spent months learning, and the teacher loses income and must find a way to fill the economic gap.

In thirty years of teaching, I have NEVER had a student who "takes a summer break" make it to an advanced level of playing. In fact, most of these students barely achieve an intermediate level.  Besides losing the skills they have achieved, they often have difficulty getting started again in the routine of practicin...

July 25, 2018