What’s up with the Thumb!

It was just a few weeks ago that I had a chance to take one of my favorite teachers out for a lunch.

He has and is instrumental in my career choice and how I teach today!

I wanted to pick his brain on chromatic scales. There is a lot of stuff on utube about what a chromatic scale is…and it’s not a difficult thing to play. What most people neglect is what movement you need to give you the speed and dexterity to play very very well.

The first thing he discussed was the Thumb! Yes! The thumb! What is it designed to do? It is designed to grab. Just pick up something and guess what happens..you grab it with your thumb and your 5th finger.

Well..as it turns out the Thumb is imperative in being able to give you speed and the ability to perform technical challenges with ease!

Epic!!

All that technique! YUK??

It’s one of those things we just need to do.

It reminds me of my run today. I really don’t enjoy running at all!! But I have found a solution to help me.

I found an area outside, under a bridge and it’s really quiet there. Love that!! There is a bit of a incline/decline as well and it’s not that aggressive. I found a sequence and took action. First, a bit of a walk followed by a light jog to a specific point. Then walk up to a specific point, and then RUN FAST AND HARD to a specific point. Repeat! That was it!

It’s the same with technique. I personally am not a fan of scales, arpeggios, chords and the RCM expectation’s.

I find legato, Clementi, Hanon, Czerny and Kullak depending on the opus you are focusing on, way more challenging. They challenge in a way like running HARD, with intensity. You get it over with and then apply that to any of your pieces you are studying.

Happy piano practicing, know that you are growing, and enjoy the journey!

What Grade Are You?

My students often get asked by other people they meet, when talking about piano, what Grade are you?

These people are being very specific about the Royal Conservatory of Music program. There are Grades Primary to Grade 10 and then your A.R.C.T in either piano performance or teachers accreditation. The ARCT is the equivalent of a Bachelors’ of Music.

I often tell my students when asked that tell them it really doesn’t matter. What really matter is how you play!

You can play well, or you can play terribly.

In Europe, people ask, who are you studying with. This is a much  bigger impact on the quality of their piano education.

If you wanted to study at a prestigious music school, one must always audition. They do not ask what Grade you are in or what mark you received. They base your audition on how you perform. Period!!

You decide. Listen to this popular piece Fur Elise by two pianist and which way do you prefer?

Version 1:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIi4pCWKQiQ

Version 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAsDLGjMhFI

 

How do you know if your musical or not.

When I was a little girl studying piano I thought everyone’s brains thought like mine.

I thought people could here music in their brains. This is simply not the case.

I think that’s why I learned my pieces easily, because my teacher would play the piece, and because I had good note recognition. I copied her!

I never learned how to count, had no idea how to move at all! Did this hurt my musical ability? Absolutely!!

10 years of terrible instruction. Nice and awesome teachers..just terrible direction because what my heart wanted to play was not possible.

One of the best qualities in studying the piano, or any musical instrument, is to hear the melody in your head. You can carry this every where! You’ll often see great pianist mouths are moving. There is a reason for that.

So sing away to a melodic melody and enjoy this special and unique talent you were born with 🙂

Do you have Piano Goals?

Happy New Year everyone!!

It seems that at this time of year everyone seems to have something that they’d like to change.

I really love this quote “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Earl Nightingale

It doesn’t matter what your goal is. What matters is you enjoy the journey along the way.

I have some students who are very goal oriented and they stick with it! Others are wondering around and have so many pieces they’d like to study that their energy is dispersed. I have to bring them back on track to help feel that their energy is moving in the right direction.

Nothing is worse than feeling that your not accomplishing something.

I can’t stress enough of how Slow Practice is the BEST Practice! We want to learn something FAST….SLOW is the only way to go!!

Plus when you move on to study another piece or technique, your brain and body will remember all that you have done! What an amazing feeling!

Happy Practicing and enjoy THE JOURNEY!!

 

 

Watching Greatness Emerge :)

It all began 4 or maybe even 3 years ago.

She was a brand new student to the piano!

What she had though was amazing! She went slow, her movement was flawless and she always did her best! What a amazing combination!

She persisted and kept on going even though she didn’t see the greatness within herself. I did!

Then it happened! That day that she saw her confidence within herself. Something that I always did see!

Now she feels that she can do and accomplish whatever she wants!

It’s like planting a seed. She planted the seed and with the love of her parents and the inspiration of her desire, her garden is looking beautiful! What a gift to her, her parents and the world around her 🙂

 

“Greatness lies within”

Do Fast Pieces Scare You?

I always marveled at how pianist played so fast! I thought to myself, how’d they do that?

Now I know.

First thing is always starting out SLOW. But also how are you moving when you are going slow.

The faster you go the smaller the movements. That’s it!

Stay close to the black keys if you have lots of accidents or it’s in the key signature. Can you imagine if your hand is on the edge of the keys and you had to reach for them. It’s just not going to happen 🙂

Let’s talk about the metronome..that ugly word! I rarely use it when teaching. The only time I do is when you are studying something that demands speed. Bring out the metronome once you know the important elements of the piece. The rhythm, fingering and the sound structure of the composition. If you’re still thinking of that your not ready. Then start with a very comfortable tempo and gradually, the word is gradually, increase. If the tempo your at is uncomfortable, stay there until you do. Don’t move on.

Happy and Slow Practicing 🙂

 

 

Why do you Practice?

As I was thinking what my topic should be I decided to practice.

Why do you practice?

There are lots and lots of answers. The biggest concern that comes to mind is BECAUSE I HAVE TO!

Wow! What a answer. If that be the case I’m so sorry for your predicament.

Maybe I can change your perception. Think of the reward you get in studying the piano?

If you can think of even 1 positive answer, I think that is just awesome! I think that is probably more than most 🙂

There was a story of a woman, who survived a war, and was a star performer during that time. She was doing something against her will. But she was so grateful for meeting amazing people during this time and for the joy this provided. I watched her documentary and what I found so amazing is that she practiced every day because she “felt she was getting better”. Her words and she was in her 90’s at the time of the documentary. Those were her reasons.

Find yours and you’ll feel so much better and just like planting a seed you will watch that seed grow and become something amazing.

“Greatness lies within You”

My experience with a Master Piano Teacher.

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote” The master will appear when you are ready.”

That’s exactly what happened to me.

I was on my fantastic journey of preparing for my A.R.C.T in Piano Performance, studying with an amazing teacher. She was warm, positive and caring and challenged me with studying difficult composers.

Then that day arrived and it came completely out of the blue.

I was attending a Piano Summer Camp at the University of Victoria and I met this gentleman who was a guest artist from Switzerland. The first time I sat down with him, I cried, because he took something that I was studying and struggling with, and made it simple! I was hooked!

It wasn’t for a couple of years, but my journey began with him and what a journey!

He was back in Switzerland and we did lessons by Skype. I am not even close to being the pianist I was as to who I am today. It changed me and it changes my teaching experience with my students and for this I am grateful!

 

It all started with a phone call and a Grade 8 Piano Exam!

This is a story about a young lady, who is preparing for her grade 8 piano exam and me.

I received a phone call from a very quiet mom who’s whole purpose was her daughters goal of passing her Grade 8 Royal Conservatory Exam. The mom told her that her daughters teacher had a family emergency and wasn’t able to help with the last few weeks before the exam.

The phone call and our first meeting was on June 30th and her exam was scheduled for August 16th. This means we had 6 weeks to prepare!!

Away we went!! 2 days a week and sooo many changes to help this amazing young lady to get her to pass!

She was seriously struggling with many many of her pieces and I must admit how in the world are we going to do this! But she was persistent and positive and always gave her best! Always!!!

Miracles happened! She has grown sooo much as a young lady and the music that is coming from her soul is awe inspiring! She applied the way’s I told her to practice and guess what…it worked!!

It has truly been an inspirational 6 weeks and I know that she is going to do very very well on her exam, which is tomorrow!

I reminded her about her mental preparation of her exam.  Greatness lies with a pause! A moment of silence! When one allows this process to flood your thoughts music is inevitable!