Tuning in….

I love giving students a tour of the inside of the piano. It’s amazing to see how the hammers and strings and dampers all conspire to create such amazing sounds. The piano has the full range of an entire orchestra!

Often students tell me it sounds so different in the lesson than at home. There are lots of reasons for this. Every piano sounds and feels different, and the environment it’s in affects the sound, too. A small space with lots of hard surfaces tends to amplify the sound while, lots of carpet and upholstery absorbs sounds.

We can learn to adjust to these factors, as long as the instruments we play are kept in tune and good repair. Our Ontario weather with big changes in humidity and temperature can play havoc on tuning. As we move out of summer and in to the winter months, now is an excellent time to have your piano tuned. Pianos should be tuned at least once a year. There are a number of excellent tuners working in this area, and I am also happy to make recommendations.

Inside the upright

It’s important to listen carefully and critically to the tone and phrasing and dynamics as we develop pieces artistically. These are things we work on in lessons, and it’s important to carry on with that work throughout the week. If the piano at home is out of tune, this becomes very difficult.

I’m also recording some of the work we do in lessons, using a digital recorder, and sharing it with students using Dropbox. It’s amazing what we are able hear in our own playing when we sit back and listen.

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Practicing… Tips to Save Time and Find Your Groove

This RCM site offers plenty of great reasons to pursue private music studies: self-discipline, poise, precision, confidence, empathy, collaboration, listening and communication, focus, self-awareness.

“Music education fosters many of the skills children will require for success in school and the workplace, as well as their personal and social lives. Many scientific studies have demonstrated the benefits of learning music, including: increased self-confidence, improved self-discipline, gains in memory, and reduced stress.”

The time we spend practicing has a lot to do with that. But sometimes, there are those days!

This month I’ve been working with students to discover ways to make practice time efficient and rewarding. Here are some ideas that work!

1. Set a goal. Achieving a goal in every practice feels great! Each week, I write goals for the technique and pieces we’re working on. In every practice, set yourself a goal. For example, “I am going to learn these two bars, hands together.” If we are working to learn 8 bars hands together in a week, you can break it down into 4 manageable goals, 2 bars per practice. All of a sudden it’s not so daunting.

2. Practice technique with the metronome all the time. This develops a good sense of steady rhythm, pulse and works to make you think ahead.

3. When you have to re-take a section, stop and mark it on your music. Make a new goal for that day, or the next practice. Sometimes, just stopping to figure out what is causing you to stumble is all it takes!

4. Take time to look over the music before you start to play. Take four bars a a time and look for familiar patterns that you already know: scale and broken chord patterns make up a lot of our music… that’s why we practice technique. It’s kind of nice to find some old friends in a new piece. Identify notes that are not as easy to read, ones on ledger lines for example. When you start to play, it will feel like you already know the piece.

5. Keep track of your accomplishments during the week. It feels so great to see just how much you’ve done.

The next few posts will offer some more ideas, so stay tuned!

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