Classical musicians are typically stuck to their sheet music. If they don’t have music in front of them or memorized they are often completely handicapped at their instrument. There are two major ways that a musician can play music without reading. One is playing by ear, and the other is improvisation.
The art of improvisation is now mainly associated with jazz music. Did you know, though, that improvisation in classical music was commonplace well before jazz was every played?
Do you sit down and practice your instrument, or do you just play it? Growing up, I don’t know if I knew that there was much of a difference. Practicing just meant that I was making music, or at least sound, on my instrument. Somehow I would get better. Right?
Both practicing and playing music have their place, but if you want to get better quickly, practicing is where you should spend most of your time.
Music is made up almost entirely of patterns. Patterns can be defined as notes that are organized in a predictable manner. If you are able to find these patterns in music, you can often predict what is coming next. Understanding patterns can also help in learning and memorizing a piece much faster. Many students of music understand that patterns exist, but they fail to use them to learn their music, instead relying on learning one note at a time.
Finding, labeling, and sometimes extending patterns, are the first things that you should do while learning a piece of music.
Your first lesson with a new student will be the most important lesson you ever have with that student. If the student, or the parents, are not impressed, they won’t continue lessons with you. It’s not just important for your income as a teacher, it’s important for the student.
There have been many students that had a bad first impression with music lessons that didn’t continue. That’s sad! As teachers, our biggest desire is to share our passion of music with others. If we scare them off during the first lesson, it doesn’t matter how amazing of a teacher you are, they will never get a chance to find out! Here are some ideas that will make your new students beg to continue studying with you.
If you play the piano, or if you’re a teacher, you’ve likely been taught in the classical tradition. You predominantly learned to read music. By reading music, you translate the notes on the page into music on the piano. That’s the only way that I was taught to play the piano. I was never taught to improvise or play by ear. It’s a different skill set. Most often these skills are not found in classical pianists. Does that mean they can’t be applied in classical music?
Let’s look into a different way of learning, that can be extremely effective.
When I began teaching piano, I was adamant that the method books that were available were not as good as something I could teach on my own. After a few months, I realized I was wrong. Trying to create my own method was not complete enough, and I ended up all over the place with my students. I finally gave in and experimented with the big three: Bastien, Alfred, and Faber. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve finally found a method book I love. That books is Piano Safari.
Learning technique for your instrument is often one of the most boring things you can practice. People tend to avoid practicing their technical exercises. For the most part, that may not be a terrible thing. There are usually better ways to spend your time practicing than working on unmusical technical exercises all day.
There are two important exceptions to that though. Those exceptions are scales and arpeggios
Serious musicians can practice for 4 or more hours every day. The idea is that if you practice more, you’ll progress faster. It makes logical sense. If you practice for 4 hours, you will progress 4 times faster than the person who is only practicing one hour. It doesn’t always work that way though. The musician that practices for 1 hour efficiently, can easily learn more than a musician that practices for 4 hours inefficiently.
Can you learn how to practice and cut your practice hours down to almost nothing? If you want to progress at the same rate you are now, then sure. I prefer to progress as much as possible. I want to practice as efficiently as I can, but also as much as I can. If you add time and efficiency together, you’ll end up with progress many times faster than what you are probably achieving now.
Everyone makes mistakes right? You don’t have to though. Well, at least not while practicing slowly. Once you get a piece up to speed, there are quite a few reasons why mistakes might happen. In Graham Fitch’s recent post he clearly separates mistakes into two categories, careless mistakes and honest mistakes.
In this post we’re going to discuss careless mistakes. These are mistakes that can be avoided with some thought and slow practice. Honest mistakes are mistakes when you were aware of the correct way of playing something, but you were unable to play it that way. This is almost always because of technical deficiencies.
Careless mistakes are made because you didn’t care to pay attention to what was written. For example if you would have thought for a couple more seconds, you would have known that a measure you’re working on was supposed to be loud, not soft. You can completely avoid careless mistakes with the right approach.
If you just started learning piano, or your child is getting lessons for the first time, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes that beginner pianists make. Most of the time students progress much slower than they need to because they are making mistakes that misuse their precious time. Don’t be one of those people.