Category Archives: Uncategorized

Recital Recap – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Congratulations to all the students who took part in our studio recital a few weeks ago.

It was a celebration of effort and progress, as all of the artists have grown musically either in the last year, or since they began lessons some time through the year. Some performers have been learning for three or four years, others as little as nine or ten weeks. Each person who stepped up to the piano has a different story, different needs, a different background, and a different path.

For just over half of the students, it was their first experience playing the piano in public and for many of them, their first time publicly performing in any capacity. Everybody did a wonderful job overcoming their nerves; it can be really difficult to play when your hands are shaking with nerves, but everybody looked calm and prepared.

Please enjoy these photos of the performances:

Would you like to be a part of this next year? If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

Advertisements

Three Things Every Beginning Student Needs to Know – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

We all know by now that learning a musical instrument is exceptionally good for our brains and provides great cognitive development. Persistence, delayed gratification and problem solving are among the many skills that are expanded. (In case you’ve forgotten, the infographic in this blog post explains it very succinctly). But these advantages don’t appear overnight.

The expectation that they will be fluently playing sophisticated pieces within a short time frame is one I see often… “Can I play Fur Elise soon?”… “Can she play the Christmas carols at our family get-together next month?”… and the kicker… “I’ll just have a few lessons and see if I like it.”

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWI recently wrote a post about playing an instrument being a cumulative skill, and understanding this helps us realise what is required to reach our goals. For anybody starting to learn an instrument – but particularly children – there are some expectations that should be set right from the start:

  • It’s okay to fail, and the failures will help you become a better musician.
  • Putting in the time and effort wins out over talent.
  • Learning an instrument is a long-term commitment and you will be sticking with it.

Tony Mazzocchi has written an article (here) that explains how – if approached correctly – music lessons may be one of your child’s greatest opportunities. Please take the time to peruse the article, especially the three main points.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

Your Body: Your Greatest Tool – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

A big part of playing any instrument is the time you can spend with it, the companionship it provides and the joy it brings as you play. You want to be able to spend as much time as you choose creating music. This can’t happen if your body is protesting.

How you sit at the piano shouldn’t feel forced – the correct posture is really very natural. If it wasn’t, you would be constantly putting strain on your body (and remember, pianists use their whole body to play). More than anything else, you want loose, fluid wrists; if other parts of your upper body are tense, this tension will transfer to the wrists and hands.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

Graphic courtesy of instructables.com

Being at the correct height for the keyboard is paramount, and this is one seating problem that is a big issue for children, particularly smaller kids. If they are sitting at a level that necessitates them reaching up to the keys, the only way they will keep their hands in the correct position is to be constantly raising and tensing their shoulders. A cushion can help.

If their feet don’t reach the floor, try a small stool under their feet, or some large books.

In the half an hour each week I am with a student, I can reinforce (often many times) correct posture and positioning, but the time spent at their instrument throughout the week is where the habits will form. Please make sure these are good habits.

How you hold your hands when you play is of vital importance and, as mentioned above, it should be very natural. Drop your arms loosely by your sides and then lift up from the elbow; the position into which your hand naturally falls as you lift it is the perfect playing position. The same shape will form if you pretend to shake water from your hands (I use this action with young kids during lessons). Natural and unforced.

The following infographic (developed by Hoffman Academy) shows some great tips for good posture.

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSW postureIf you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

 

Can’t I Catch Up Later? – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Would you run a marathon if you had been training for only three weeks? Would you decide to do it twelve or nine months earlier but not begin to work for it until the last month?

I’m pretty sure the answer to those questions would be a resounding, “No!”. But if you did do those things, would you still expect to be prepared for the race and anticipate a good result?

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWYou understand the mechanics of running, but does the information in your brain translate to your muscles so they know how to behave? No. The muscles need to learn those new skills.

 

 

Playing the piano is no different. Learning an instrument is a cumulative skill. You cannot leave preparation until the last minute and still expect to do well in an exam or perform beautifully at a recital. Throwing extra resources in at the end doesn’t yield the same result as snowballing your skill set.

Creating music is about so much more than just the notes on the page; it is about how they are to be played and the different sounds that may be created, and this requires practised technique. Muscle memory plays a part, but other skills include the balance of the hand and body, rhythm, pitch, technique, body positioning, fine motor skills, dynamics, texture, tonal shading and more. Imagine how frazzled the brain would feel if it were trying to deal with all these things in a very short space of time.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWA similar problem occurs when – for a variety of reasons – students want to rush through levels of exams. This often means learning only the minimum number of pieces to get through, and the overall musicianship is sacrificed.

Playing a musical instrument is a skill for life and can be a blessing in so many ways. Cherish it and nurture it with the respect it deserves and it will repay you tenfold.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

Preparing for Your Piano Exam – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Exam season once again upon us and whether or not it’s your first exam experience, it can still be a stressful time. Twelve months of work (or longer for Preliminary students) are culminating in this moment, giving you an opportunity to showcase everything you have learnt and practised.

The AMEB (Australian Music Examinations Board) have put together a list of ten things you should consider before an exam. You can read the full article here but in summary the points are:

  1. Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWDon’t slack off on your practise and then cram it all in during the week before. Playing piano is a (cumulative) physical skill as well as mental; you wouldn’t run a marathon if you had only been training for a week.
  2. Use your nerves to create nervous energy that can heighten your performance.
  3. No stimulants – energy drinks, caffeine etc can have the opposite of the desired effect and can make you jittery.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to other candidates; all you can control is your own performance.
  5. Celebrate your hard work instead of downplaying its significance. You have spent all year working for this, so be proud of your effort.
  6. Be sure of your general knowledge and practise your aural tests and sight reading well in advance of your exam date.
  7. Be outfitted classily and comfortably and in clothes that don’t restrict your movement.
  8. Have your closest supporters with you.
  9. Remember to show the examiner a beautifully musical performance (not just a display of technique).
  10. Do your best and be proud of it rather than stressing over your final grade.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

For most people, exams are a stressful time. The best thing you can do is know that you are walking in there as prepared as you can possibly be. If you know you have put in the necessary work, you should be able to enjoy – or at least appreciate – the experience through the haze of nerves.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

Gifted and Talented: Dangerous Labels – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Over the years I have attempted a number of different instruments, with a variety of results. Some, like the guitar, came to me fairly easily. But reed instruments are my Waterloo. I can’t even get a decent sound from one. Does this mean I am hopeless and never destined to play a reed instrument because I don’t have a natural gift? Not at all.

Prowess doesn’t result solely from being naturally talented or having a gift. Success is a result of hard work. In the music field, this equates to time and effort (I’m avoiding that nasty p word…).

Piano lessons Wallsend NSW

Australian musician and educator, Samantha Coates, has written a great article – here – on how these words are often misunderstood in a practical application. “Hard work can trump ‘giftedness’ most of the time.” Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

The Benefits of Duets – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

I was lucky when I was learning the piano – my sister was also learning. Plus my Mum played. That meant I always had a duet partner available. Duets certainly have their challenges, but most of my memories of playing duets involve lots of laughter. My only complaint at the time was I always had to play the bottom part, which was usually keeping the beat and not as melodically interesting. Nevertheless, duets formed a significant part of our performing, particularly in our teenage years and were always fun.

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSW

“Piano Duet” by Pamela Blaies (http://pamelablaies.com)

The method books I use to teach my beginners – and most method books on the market – have a teacher accompaniment that can be played along with the student. It not only ‘fills out’ the sound of their very basic piece for them and makes what they are playing sound much more impressive for them, but it also unknowingly begins to teach them the fundamentals of playing duets.

The benefits of playing piano duets are many and include:

  1. Developing listening skills – the only way your duet will be successful is if you are constantly listening to what the other person is playing to ensure you are staying together.
  2. Early accompanying skills – following on from developing listening skills, learning how to follow or catch-up to the other person can set up the quality skills of a good accompanist.
  3. Teaches good timing – good tempo needs to be kept by both parts or the piece won’t flow and will sound very disjointed. With a partner, you are more likely to maintain a steady pulse and keep going. Over time, you will gain more rhythmic constancy and learn to adapt to any tempo set by a partner.
  4. Teamwork and interaction – pianists usually spend a lot of time playing alone. Playing duets not only encourage interaction with others (as practising together is essential) but you also need to be working together as a team to ensure the piece flows beautifully.
  5.  Articulation and compromise – it’s not just about the correct notes and timing. Duet partners need to learn how to articulate their ideas for interpretation, and then learn to compromise these with the other person’s ideas. Duets teach students to listen carefully, ensuring the parts balance evenly and that articulation ideas passed between the two parts are precisely performed.
  6. Motivation and accountability – while the two players are working as a team, for kids playing duets, they usually want to make sure they don’t sound worse than their partner, so will try their hardest. If they don’t know their part, they may feel they are letting down their partner as they know both of them are accountable for the best result. This also encourages more focussed concentration.
  7. Increased confidence – for those students who are nervous about performing, having a performing buddy is often a much-needed confidence boost.
  8. Pedalling awareness – one person will be pedalling for the other, while the second person will be surrendering their pedal control. This needs to be negotiated and controlled.
  9. Duets are impressive –  audiences (particularly parents watching their children play a duet together) love duets; they sound full, rich and harmonious and watching two pianists play together in sync is entertaining.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWI still enjoy the fullness of sound a duet provides and regularly play a duet ‘together with myself’, where I record the Secondo (bottom part) on my digital piano and then play it back while I play the Primo (top part). Duets are certainly a special experience :-)

If you are considering piano lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.