There are many ways to learn to play the piano. Especially nowadays, one can surf the Internet and find many options to learn anything, including how to play something on the piano. If one wants to really make piano playing a good hobby or profession, however, the choices are fewer.
After teaching for a fair amount of years, I classify piano methods into two major categories: reading-based and playing-based. I began piano lessons in the second grade of elementary school (US). Most or all piano methods were (and many still are) very traditional (reading-based). This meant I started learning the complex language of music notation from the very beginning. Since it was a requirement that I had to learn to read the notation of a piece before I was able to play it, the first couple of years were filled with super simple and boring pieces that, frankly, I'm not sure I would want to push on anyone.
Was this the best way for students to learn to play piano? I assumed so. All piano teachers in my area taught this way so I also taught this way for many years while constantly trying to think of another, better way. However, I wasn't aware of some important concepts that blow this way of learning out of the water.
Music is a language, the learning of which can be compared to our own language.
How do we learn our language? As toddlers, we start learning words, then experiment with putting them together into sentences. Only several years later do we learn what those words and sentences look like on the printed page - that is, we learn to read. And along the way, we've made many cute mistakes in grammar and pronunciation and that was okay as that's part of learning.
If you love musical theater, you have already seen it. If musical theater is not your thing – this musical will change your mind. My favorite musical, Les Misérables (The Miserable Ones), has been seen by more than 70 million people in 43 countries and is performed in 22 languages around the globe – and it’s still breaking box-office records everywhere in its 30th year.
Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Misérables is written from the premise that any man can rise above his circumstances to reach perfection. The plot of the novel is suspenseful from start to finish; it follows both Jean Valjean’s and society’s struggles with good and evil. It’s universal appeal was probably why it was the most talked about novel in the history of publishing when it came out in 1862. Hugo expertly summarizes the story’s framework:
“The book which the reader has before him at this moment is, from one end to the other, in its entirety and details … a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life; from bestiality to duty, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God. The starting point: matter, destination: the soul. The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end.”
Check out these sites for more information:
10th Anniversay: The Valjean’s:
In teaching voice for many years, I have found a few things that may cause you re-think your approach to singing:
Music notation programs on the computer have been around for a long time. Finale and Sibelius are two standards in the music industry. As times (and technology) have changed there are some new players in the field and one seems pretty exciting.
Enter Noteflight. Noteflight® is an online music writing application that lets you create, view, print and hear music notation without having to even download a program. It works in your web browser and it's easy enough for younger budding composers. Work on a score from any computer on the Internet or share with other users or your teacher. Like many "webware" sites, it offers a free version or a premium account which adds additional features. I highly recommend adults and child students try out at least the free version and start making your own music.
Get this - "The greatest scientists are artists as well," said Albert Einstein. He was not only one of the greatest physicists that ever lived, he was also an amateur pianist and violinist. A recent article in Psychology Today reveals that Einstein's insights did not come from logic or mathematics. It came, as it does for artists, from intuition and inspiration.
In a conversation with the great music education pioneer, Shinichi Suzuki, Einstein also stated, "The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study the violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception." It's no wonder the Greeks considered Mathematics and Music two essential areas of study for all young students. Anyone not knowing there are important connections between the two has not been paying attention. Perhaps losing Music education in our public schools has a negative "Math and Science" fallout.
Check out this informative article.
Singing a song and need some quick accompaniment? Want to spice up your piano playing and have great fun at the same time? I just purchased Chordpulse software and I'm having a blast with it. It can give you the tools to build your own arrangements of songs with a jazz or blues combo, acoustic guitar group, or rock band to play with you.
It doesn't do anything really fancy (less than "Band in a Box" or "Garage Band") but I'm having much fun just creating the arrangements. It's easy to use and has over 100 musical styles to employ at the click of a mouse. Plus, it's slick and just looks great. Chordpulse software could be used by music teachers, church music directors, worship musicians, and others who want/need something more but cannot afford their own band or orchestra. Try a 14-day free trial and have some fun.
A new, scientific study is out that investigates changes in the brain when creating original music (improvising) on a piano keyboard vs. playing an existing song by note. Charles Limb, a brain scientist at Johns Hopkins looked at the whole brain, and found more than 40 areas that were active during improvisation. And yes, the subjects actually played an electronic keyboard while in an MRI machine.
They found that the prefrontal cortex area of the brain changes greatly when improvising as compared to playing memorized music. And the part of the brain that "turns off" is the part that's linked to inhibition. He said, "So during creative playing, you get this combination of self-expression with the absence of conscious self-monitoring. We think that's how jazz musicians are able to improvise."
One of his jazz pianist subjects expressed that when you're censoring yourself, playing the notes feels physically different. "It's as if your brain is fighting with your central nervous system and trying to control your movements. But when you're in the zone, it just feels easy. It feels just like breathing or talking. It feels so natural it almost seems not profound."
In the second part of the study, somehow Limb (a pianist himself) managed to play a duet with the subject in the MRI. As they were trading musical phrases back and forth (a popular technique in improvisational jazz, called "Trading Fours"), other areas of the brain began to be activated - areas known to be responsible for understanding language and in speaking. It seems to provide a strong link between neurobiology of music and language.
Now, none of this is probably news to music educators but it's always good to have science back you up.
Many piano students have studied the well known classical piece, Für Elise (for Elise). It was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven around 1810 when he was firmly established as one of the greatest composers in history. It is named "Für Elise" because a Beethoven researcher named Ludwig Nohl claimed to have seen this dedication on the original autograph which has been missing for many years.
The piece was not published until 1865 well after Beethoven's death and no records or letters from people at the time make mention of an "Elise" in the composer's life. Beethoven was in love with a woman named Therese Malfatti around the time he created the work. Some researchers think that Nohl misread the composer's poor handwriting and it actually read "Für Therese". Others say that's unlikely. Unfortunately, we may never know for sure to whom this beautiful piece was dedicated.
Hear an interesting arrangement of Fur Elise for piano and orchestra.
Terry Smith teaches piano and voice privately in the Phoenix, AZ area and online anywhere using an innovative approach called "PLAY NOW!"
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