News and Views

 

Value of Slow Practice

  1. Starting from the beginning of your piece, play everything in slow motion: every note, every phrase, and every measure. Play with hands separate.
  2. Once the player is familiar with the technical challenges inherent in a particular piece, practice the notes slowly but move between them at the speed required at full tempo. This means shifting as fast as one would at full speed; and arranging one's hand and fingers in the correct position for the next phrase. Always read at least a beat ahead – if not a measure or more. 
  3.  Most importantly, if a pianist plays with poor posture or poor technique, he or she runs the risk of habits that affect the quality and musicality of the piece. Even the most aware performers should check their playing alignment every day. Slow work to that end can shed light on bad habits, which would otherwise go unnoticed. Some things to keep in mind are a straight back, feet flat on the floor for stabilization, elbows slightly out from the body, and wrists level with fingers curved. Sit one arm’s length from the piano. 
  4. To learn phrasing, one must attend to details: fingering notations, loudness, softness, lifts after each slur, time signature. Play each phrase slowly with attention to these details. 
 Slow practice accelerates learning by reducing time spent unlearning mistakes acquired from fast, inaccurate practice, and slow practice produces a beautifully played piece.
 
The Value of Staying with Piano
I’ve been there! Piano seems so difficult, and you have to drag yourself to the bench to practice. But don’t give up! When I was about 13, I wanted to quit lessons so badly and I begged my mom to let me quit. I hated practicing and I was struggling with my new pieces. My mom did not let me quit and I am so thankful she did so. I received 3 gold cups at the Federation Festivals. I regained my joy in practicing and I have gotten to the level where I am playing music I love. Stick with it--you won’t regret it!
Emily Owen, 11 years of lessons 

I have been taking piano lessons over 13 years, and I believe that piano is more than just music. It teaches you so many things—like discipline and courage. I have learned many things from my wonderful teacher, and she helped me get through it when you realize that practice makes a difference. I am now enjoying very much the pieces that I play. But I also learned that practice and more practice only makes you better! I am working on my fourth gold cup for Federation Festival. 
Ally Pulizos, 13 years of lessons 

When I first started piano, I thought it was pretty cool. Then I got tired of it. I was tired of practicing every day the lesson songs that seemed boring. Then around my fourth year (Level 3), I had the skill to play cooler songs. I can also use my ability elsewhere. I have been asked to play keyboards for my band performances and for Jazz band, and I just earned my second gold cup at the Federation Festival! So, it may seem hard at first, but it’s pretty cool when you stick with it and have that experience!
Ethan Fisher, 7 years of lessons 

I started piano lessons when I was in second grade. By the time I got to fifth grade, I wanted to quit. I came to lessons unprepared because I did not want to practice and I felt bad because I was so unprepared. For a while, it was a weekly struggle. But my mom would not let me quit. I thought that playing the piano was uncool because my friends did not take lessons or play piano. One week I came with a piece ready and received praise for playing it well. I felt like I had really accomplished something. That week I went home and practiced. I played all my pieces all the way through and worked on the challenging parts. I then felt happy to come to lessons because I would get praised and congratulated for my hard work and effort. Practicing wasn’t easy, but it was very worthwhile. After a while, it became a part of my schedule. I could play songs for family and friends and I could come to lessons feeling proud and excited. I look forward to coming to lessons now. I just earned my first gold cup at the National Federation Festival, and I love playing duets with my older brother. I even participate in WSMA solo and ensemble and school concerts. It won’t be easy—it takes time and effort, but it is worth it!
Anna Fisher, 4 years of lessons 
 
I contemplated quitting piano in middle school. At the last minute, I decided not to quit. I'm glad I stuck with piano because it's become such an integral part of my life. I can't go a day without playing some sort of music, and no matter if it's piano or another instrument, the instruction and grounding in piano is what motivates me to be musical in the first place. Taking piano education has introduced good work ethic, better self-motivation, and a general understanding of musicality that has allowed my musical experience and future career to flourish. As a musician, there are many different paths one can take to become musically educated. Staying with piano lessons kept me immersed in the world in which I can best express myself. Playing music at a level I am comfortable with is not only a benefit to myself, but also to the people to whom I attempt to recommend that level of perseverance, being both in music, or in other endeavors. The foundation of piano and the level of dedication which it instills and requires, has given me the groundwork for a career in music, something which I have dreamed of since becoming a more competent musician. -
Neil McLinden, Student for 14 years  

Growing Pains in Nature's Music Schedule

Each child is different and will react to nature's music schedule in his/her own way. In gcneral, however, .a large percentage ·of children tend to follow developmental pattern depicted in this graph. (Reprinted from pamphlet: THIS BUSINESS OF MUSIC PRACTICING, or, How Six Words Prevented A Dropout, by Sidney J. Lawrence. 1968, Workshop Music Teaching Pub., Hewlett, N.Y.)
 
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