Tag Archives: piano

Common Piano Practise Mistakes (Part 2) – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”
– Unknown

With a school holiday period looming here in Australia, students will have three weeks in which they will be practising with no input or guidance from their teachers. That’s a long time to be getting nowhere if they aren’t practising effectively and efficiently. Last month I posted about some common mistakes make by students when practising and how to overcome these issues.

Following are some more tips that will help you practise effectively not just over the term holidays, but at any time:

Using incorrect fingering. Sometimes the fingering noted on the music may seem either unimportant or too difficult, but the truth is it is always there for a reason. It is usually moving your hand to where it needs to be for optimum movement (and minimal confusion). Being consistent with fingering also calls upon your muscle memory, allowing you to learn the piece with more stability.

Practising too fast. I know I have mentioned this many times before, but it is so important to slow down and take your time. It can be frustrating when you know how the piece sounds and you just want to play it at speed so the familiar sound and what you are playing are closer. But playing too fast doesn’t allow you to really pay attention to what you’re playing or note the areas that need additional work. It’s much easier to increase speed once the piece is correct than it is to have to slow down later and try to ‘unlearn’ mistakes.

Piano teacher Wallsend NSWHaving your piano in an out-of-the-way location. Having your piano or keyboard tucked away in a spare room or an area of the house not regularly accessed doesn’t encourage regular practise. Out of sight, out of mind! Have your piano in a prominent position in the house so it acts as a constant reminder.

Not counting out loud. Even though I have been playing for over 40 years, I still find counting out loud is the easiest way to get my mind around a complicated new passage. It is particularly crucial for beginners and works excellently in conjunction with the point above about slowing down. Counting out loud helps develop a sense of rhythm; the physical act of counting makes the rhythm more dominant and the hands tend to follow.

Watching your hands instead of the music. When you watch your hands instead of the music, you tend to learn the piece with mistakes; playing by ear and using memory take over from reading what the music is asking you to play. When you do need to look down to your hands, try to just avert your eyes rather than move your head, or it is more difficult to re-find your place on the music when you lift your (moved) head back up.

Practising “in bulk”. Shorter, regular practise sessions are far more effective than one very long one. Once you are aware you are becoming mentally fatigued, you should stop practise and come back to it when you feel more alert.

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.

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Common Piano Practise Mistakes (Part 1) – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Sometimes you may feel as though you are beating your head against a brick wall. You set a practise schedule and you try to stick to it, but you just aren’t progressing. You could be making one of the following mistakes, all of which are easy to overcome:

Not actually practising. You intend to and you pop it into your schedule but it is never given the priority it requires and deserves. It requires a true commitment. Trust me, once you practise enough to get past those early learning hurdles, you will start to enjoy it much more and even look forward to practise.

Playing what you already know. It’s so much easier to keep playing the pieces you already play well and neglect the ones that require more effort, but you’ll pretty quickly become bored with your repertoire as well as not having a challenge.

Not reviewing old pieces to maintain a repertoire. Following on from the point above, you want to revisit older pieces occasionally so you can maintain a repertoire that has both volume and variety.

Piano teacher Wallsend NSWAlways starting from the beginning. If you start a piece at the beginning every time you play it, you will find you quickly become proficient at the start of the piece but less so as the piece goes on. I often tell my students to start at the part they find the most difficult, work on that part and then incorporate it back into the song.

Playing easier parts faster than the harder passages. If – as the point above suggests – you usually start at the beginning of a piece, you will probably play this part best and consequently a little faster. Then when you hit passages that require more concentration, you will slow down. From the time quavers are introduced to my students, I tell them to look at the hardest part (which at that stage is usually where the quavers are) and see at what speed they are comfortable playing that part. The rest of the piece is then played at this tempo. An added bonus is if that means the majority of the piece is feeling too slow, there is an added incentive to work on the troublesome section first to get it to the speed you want. Effective practise!

More common mistakes and how to fix them next month 🙂

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.

With a Little Help From My Friends – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Sometimes when we’re learning new things, we just need a little something extra to help us along. In the studio, we use games and iPad apps, as well as good old paper and pencil, but there have been some new additions that have the younger students buzzing.

Animals!

Yes, these little animals have quickly become a firm favourite with most of the under-10s (although the older kids think they’re cute as well). As they fit nicely on a piano key, they have been a wonderful asset for keyboard recognition exercises and to help in games, but they have discovered other uses as well.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWOne little girl sometimes asks for them to watch as she plays and she arranges them either on the music stand, or on top of the piano, and then performs for them. They bring her confidence.

A little boy likes the animals, but prefers the transport vehicles that live in the same drawer, and he sometimes learns a song by giving each note a vehicle of its own.

So if your little ones arrive home from their lesson and tell you they have been playing with animals – or helicopters and motorbikes – for half an hour, never fear. It’s still all about the music, but learning with a little help from our new friends.

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.

Effective Practise: What it Really Means – Piano Teacher in Wallsend

Because music is an art form and is appreciated audibly and emotionally, it can be easy to forget that a good performance is rooted in physical skill. Playing an instrument well takes time, dedication and that scary-but-shouldn’t-be word… practise.

In the past week I have had a few conversations with different students and parents about practise techniques, so thought it might be time for a refresher post about the main things to remember.

Repetition is the key. Muddling your way through a piece and finally reaching the other end doesn’t constitute effective practise; it’s just playing.

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSWYou want to always leave a practise session with at least a part of what you are playing sounding and working better than when you started. But that doesn’t need to be the whole piece. A small section of improvement is far better than a whole piece left at the same level. But something needs to improve.

Identify and isolate the area causing the problem and work on just that section for a practise session. Then try putting it back into a larger section, or the whole piece.

More, shorter practise sessions are more effective than one large catch-up. Once you have spent the time working on something, you don’t want to leave it so long that when you return to  the piano, you have forgotten what you learnt. A small section you have been working on may only take 5-10 seconds to play, so every time you walk past the piano, play it one more time.

“Effective practise is consistent, intensely focussed, and targets content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one’s current capabilities.”* Clicking on this link will take you to a great little video by Annie Bosler and Don Greene that explains how practising affects our brains and the positive lasting consequences of effective practise. At less than five minutes’ duration, and full of interesting facts, please take the time to watch it. It discusses practising for any task, not specifically music, so is useful in many areas of life.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWPractise shouldn’t be a chore. It is an opportunity. This blog post I wrote twelve months ago outlines all the benefits effective practise brings to the student, beyond simply playing the piano.

There are lots of posts on my blog about practising, ranging from the how-tos through to ways you can make practising more engaging for your child. Search for ‘practise’ or ‘practising’ in the search box at the bottom right and I’m sure you’ll find some useful posts.

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.

 

* – How to practice effectively for just about anything – Annie Bosler and Don Greene

 

Stop and Listen – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Stop and smell the roses.

An old saying, but one that is as relevant when playing music as it is in everyday life. Pause for a moment and discover the beauty being offered, not only in life, but also in the music you are playing.

piano-teacher-in-wallsend-nsw-roseI have written before about the reasons why I love teaching adults. They are flexible and motivated, but they are also hard on themselves. I have learned through teaching them, that this pressure is often evidenced in rushing. Rushing through pieces to attain their accelerated goals. But rushing often means we don’t listen to what we are playing.

What do we want to hear most? Usually the melody. Where is that melody? Is it in the highest notes of the right hand? Is it in the left hand? What else are we playing that is supporting that melody? Can we hear the rhythm?

Playing an instrument is not just about reading the notes on the page. We need to think about the role of those notes and how we balance our hands to achieve the desired audible result. This is one of the reasons I like to incorporate singing into the lesson; if the students can sing the melody of their piece, they are more likely to hear what they need to make prominent when they play.

Check out this short example (please excuse my croaky voice):

So let’s take the time to smell our musical roses and see what magic can be created.

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.

Starting a New Year Practise Routine – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

It’s a new year and with that comes new routines, new commitments and new goals. For parents of piano kids, now – while you are setting school, activity and homework routines – is the time to establish piano into those routines. For adult students, it’s a good reminder to work some time into your schedule.

Why?

Because we know that if you don’t practise, you don’t progress, and if you don’t progress, you will become disheartened and probably give up. But we can make it easier.

Would you sleep soundly if the only place you could sleep was in the middle of your laundry while the washing machine and dryer were operating?

How productive would your work be if half the items you needed to do that work were not to hand?

If you were trying to study, would your effort be effective if you were banished to a cold, musty downstairs room away from the warmth and comfort of the main house?

Of course, we are more successful in what we do if we have everything we need, are in the best environment and are nice and comfy. It’s no different for our piano practise. If going to the piano is lonely, uncomfortable and disorganised, chances are you (or your child) won’t feel inclined to practise. What can we do to help?

We can create a practise nest. A place that is welcoming, comfortable and organised.

The wonderful folk at Teach Piano Today have provided some great tips for creating such a space. While they have been written for parents of piano kids, the same tactics apply for adult students; create a nest where you feel comfortable and have everything you need before you begin.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW1. When choosing a location for your piano, select a space that is lived-in, welcoming, and well-lit. Keep it close to ‘the action’ but not in the action. Your children will gravitate to the piano more often if it is in a central place in your home. Avoid bedrooms, basements and other out of the way places. Feeling shut-off from the family while practising will inevitably lead to a reluctance to spend time on the piano.

While choosing an appropriate space, also consider the noise factor; not only from the piano, but also from your family’s day-to-day activities. Your children want to be close by, but not competing with noise from televisions, dishwashers and washing machines.

2. Make the space warm and welcoming. Your children will be encouraged to spend upwards of 30 minutes every day in this space. Is it a happy place to be for this amount of time? Small adjustments to lighting and heating can make a world of difference. Seek out places with natural light and ensure it is a cheerful and welcoming space that will encourage your child to visit the piano often for their own enjoyment.

3. Ensure your children have all required materials at hand. Help your children put together a small basket or bin of everything they may need for home practise. Pens, pencils, highlighters, and post-it notes will give your children a sense of organisation that will then spill over into their practise habits. Your children will also need adequate lighting to see their music, and a comfortable bench at the correct height to practise comfortably and correctly.

4. Make the practice nest a communal space.  Children of any age appreciate company while they practise. Having a chair, couch, beanbag chair or pillows nearby where family members will be inclined to sit, listen and enjoy the music immediately sets the tone for happy time on the piano. Encourage siblings to stop by and listen quietly, and allow yourself even just 10 minutes to sit and listen with undivided attention each time your children practise. A set-up that is conducive to including the family in home practise will encourage everyone involved to make piano practise an activity the entire family can be a part of.

5. Set the stage for organisation. Ensure your children’s practise space is uncluttered and organised. Clear out old sheet music and books from the piano bench, use a magazine organiser to hold current and favorite materials, and minimise knickknacks and other distractions from the top of the piano. If you can, avoid having the piano room do “double-duty” for laundry, toys and other clutter. Having the books your children need at their fingertips reliably ensures that no time is spent searching for lost or crumpled music. Get into the habit of placing the piano books in their appropriate space immediately after each piano lesson so they are ready and waiting.

Plus one more! Adding small surprises to your children’s practice nest (fresh flowers, a hand-written note of encouragement, a small treat, a new sticker pad, a special pen etc.) helps to show that you value the time they are spending on the piano and that you appreciate their efforts and dedication. Preserving the specialness of their practise space encourages positive feelings towards their home music time.

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.

Recital Wrap-Up – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

This piano teacher is very proud!

We had our first studio piano recital a few days ago and everybody did such a great job.

It was a day of celebration, showcasing a variety of students and levels. Being a relatively young studio, we had some performers who have been learning for a few years, and we also had some who have only been learning for a few months, with one as little as three weeks. I feel fortunate to teach such a special and diverse group of students.

For the majority of the students, it was their first time performing anywhere. For others, it was their first time performing outside of the exam environment. There was a great crowd of family and friends to support them and the atmosphere was very positive.

Where I needed to be for quick stage access meant I could only capture photos from behind, but it still gives us a nice record of the occasion. Here is a selection:

At the beginning of this year, school aged students undertook some motivation and goal setting activities, with the result being that many of them decided to take the 40 Piece Challenge. This is a global initiative and as the name suggests, the aim is to work through a large variety of repertoire exposing the students to a wide range of music. It’s a tough ask! The students who completed the 40 Piece Challenge and the modified 30 Piece Challenge were awarded with their certificates at the recital.

40: Amelia, Adi, Cooper and Ella

30: Charlotte and George

We also acknowledged Ashley, Georgia, Alan and Sungwon on the dedication and effort they put into their exams this year.

Congratulations to everybody on a great year!

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.