Archive for October, 2010

Oct 27th 2010 Breaking down the practice goals

I looked at my calendar the other day and discovered that NFMC festival is only about 15 weeks away and NCMTA is only 18 weeks away. Now that sounds like a long time. Let’s break that down in the eyes of my middle school and high school students:

Oct. 29-31- Ohh! Halloween. Must attend parties. No practice this weekend.
Nov. 1-23- Gee, I have plenty of time. Besides the Christmas recital is before festival season.
Nov. 24-28- Yippee! Thanksgiving break. I’m taking the week off to go to grandmother’s house.
Nov. 28-Dec. 12- Aghhh!!! That Christmas recital snuck up on me. I must practice frantically.
Dec. 13- Jan. 3- There is plenty of time to learn my NFMC music. Christmas break from practice starts now.
Jan. 4- Feb. 12- What do you mean it’s only 5 lessons until festival. PANIC!
Feb. 13- Wait, I thought NCMTA was in April. I don’t get a break from practice? What do you mean I have to have all 3 pieces memorized!
March 5- NCMTA. I promise next year I won’t procrastinate.

Now not all of my students are like this, but the vast majority just don’t have the hang of long term planning yet. So how do we keep the kids on track for a successful festival season?

I hand out NFMC and NCMTA music between May and August for the coming year. This gives the student plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the scores and to make sure the score editions that I like are available. There isn’t any intense work happening here, but some accidental learning might occur.

From August to the first of November, we work on these pieces diligently but are also learning Halloween and Christmas recital pieces. At this point the students usually have 2-3 pieces learned and are ready to start the memorization process.

Around the first of November, we take part of a lesson and strategize. Looking at the calendar we work backwards from the festival date to see what needs to be accomplished in 1-2 week intervals. I really like my students to have about 2-4 weeks for their pieces to settle in, go throught that inevitable slump and come back up to performance ready. My students who are playing NFMC scholarship and concerto festival have been advised that concertos need to be memorized the week we come back from winter break and scholarship pieces should be memorized no later than the third week of January.

From there we break the pieces down into lines or sections and determine what is the minimum that must be learned each week per piece to stay on track. For one piece that might be one line and for another that might be an entire page. I’ve found that this helps the students feel very much in control of their practice time. It is up to the student to break those weekly goals into daily goals.

When I was in college, I kept a little notebook with my goals in it with my music bag. After my lesson each week, I would take what I my teacher had said needed to be done and break it down in to daily goals. Then I when I was done practicing each day I would adjust the next days goals. This really kept me on track and I avoided the frantic end of the semester rush on the practice rooms.

So often students sit at the piano and practice without a definate idea of what they need to be doing. Sometimes the best laid plans fall by the wayside due to life just happening but a good plan can prevent things from going completely off the rails.

No Comments » Posted by heather / Charlotte NC Piano Lessons and Charlotte Piano Students and NFMC and Piano Practice

Oct 25th 2010 Masquerade Musicale

Just a quick note about how proud I am of my students. Saturday night was the Masquerade Musicale. There were 4 seatings and I had students playing in all of them.

Everyone did an excellent job. Their costumes were adorable and their behavior during the concerts was excellent.

Congrats and I can’t wait to see what the Winter Recitals will bring.

No Comments » Posted by heather / Charlotte NC Piano Lessons and Charlotte Piano Students and Just For Fun and Recitals

Oct 24th 2010 Keeping Us Healthy

It is that time of year again.  Colds, strep throat, the flu and the dreaded stomach virus are on the prowl again.  You may not have considered it but pianos are little germ magnets.  Let’s go over the basics of keeping everyone feeling good.

1.  If you have been running a fever in the past 24 hours, STAY HOME!  It is just a piano lesson.  I don’t want your germs and neither do the 10 students with lessons after you.

2.  Wash your hands before coming into your lesson.  We keep hand sanitizer in the studios but nothing is better than good old fashioned warm water and soap.  Sing your ABCs while washing.

3.  If you child is feeling bad but not running a temperature please let me know.  I will take a few mintues and clean the piano before the next student.

We try to keep the pianos, door knobs, and computers as clean as possible.  If you child has been sick and practicing you might use a mild disinfectant on your keyboard at home. 

Let’s hope that everyone stay well this winter!

No Comments » Posted by heather / Charlotte Piano Students

Oct 19th 2010 Those first graders know how to practice!

I would just like to congratulate my student Savannah.  She is in first grade and this is her third year of lessons with me.  Savannah is the final student to still have a perfect practice record for this semester.  That is all gold stars for 9 weeks!  She has met her practice goals and had her practice chart filled in every week.

Savannah will be receiving a book of her choice as a reward.  I am very proud of her hard work and dedication.

No Comments » Posted by heather / Charlotte Piano Students and Just For Fun and Piano Practice

Oct 19th 2010 Top 5 Book Picks for Christmas Lists

As a musician a well stocked library is a must.  Music literature and reference books are  vauable resources for the aspiring pianist and teacher.  So here are my top 5 picks that should be on your shopping list. 

*Make a note that I never said these are cheap or easy to find.

1.  The New Harvard Dictionary of Music

2.  The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music

3.  Guide to the Pianists Repertoire by Maurice Hinson

4.  Famous Pianists and Their Technique by Reginald Gerig

5.  With Your Own Two Hands by Seymour Bernstein

No Comments » Posted by heather / Just For Fun

Oct 15th 2010 Nobuyuki Tsujii

Nobuyuki Tsujii will be performing at the Halton Theater in uptown Charlotte, NC, on Oct. 15 at 8:00 pm.  Tsujii was born blind but at the age of two began exhibiting a talent for the piano.  In 2009, he tied for the gold-medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. 

Check back later this weekend for a recap of the concert.  I look forward to blogging about my student’s reactions to what they will hear at this event.

No Comments » Posted by heather / Just For Fun

Oct 14th 2010 Lesson Assignment Sheets

The assignment sheets for piano lessons plays a vital role in helping the student stay on top of their practice.  Well, that is if the student looks at the assignment sheet.  First as a student and now as a teacher, I  have seen many different methods used successfully.

The most basic method is to write the date at the top of the pages that are assigned.  Now this works well if the student is completing their pieces every week and if they remember what the date of their lesson was.  Overall, I find that this method leaves alot to be desired.

A slightly more advanced way is to use a small notebook and just to write Lesson, Theory, Performance, Practice and notate the page numbers out to the side.  This gives the student a check list to work off of.  There also isn’t very much room for additional notes and writing.

The past few years, I have been giving my students spiral notebooks with college rule paper.  Now this method definately worked well for me.  There was lots of room to write extra notes and to keep a practice record.  I did find that one of the drawbacks was that I didn’t always write the assignments in the same order.  If the theory somehow got added at the end of the page instead of after technique, it almost always was forgotten.  This was a good method and didn’t create any extra work for me as a teacher, but I felt that I could be more organized.

This year all of my students have been given a 3-ring binder.  When the student opens the binder the first thing they see is that week’s assignment sheet.  Every week I print out each day’s sheets with the correct date and the updated music history and listening assignments.  Below you can look at an example of this sheet:

Assignment Sheet- word version

This form seems to be working really well.  All the assignments are in the same place and there is plenty of room left for extra notes and reminders.  Also, I love to give handouts that are helpful to the students.  Some weeks it is supplemental theory sheets and others it can be music history information. By having a 3-ring binder handy, those papers don’t end up crumpled in the bottom of the student’s music bag.  It is also a nice place to keep sheet music so that it doesn’t get wrinkled. 

Over all I am very happy with the new assignment sheets and the 3 ring binder method.

No Comments » Posted by heather / Piano Practice and Uncategorized

Oct 13th 2010 Bartolomeo Cristofori

So if you have looked at the listening assignment for this week, you will notice that there isn’t a link.  This week’s composer invented something very important.  The assignment is to listen to any music that uses this invention.  Just have the student make a note of what music they listened to. 

I don’t want to give away the answer.  Enjoy the search!

No Comments » Posted by heather / Uncategorized

Oct 11th 2010 More About Theory- Understanding Flats

We covered how sharps work a few weeks ago.  Now I am going to get back on track and explain the opposite of a sharp.  The opposite of sharp is flat.  A flat look like this:

         What does a flat do?  A flat lowers the note a half step.  That would cause the note to go from a white key down to a black key or if there is no black key inbetween then directly to the next white key. 

We talked before about how important identifying key signatures is to being able to successful complete theory assignments.  How do we name the flat key signatures?  If there is only one flat then it is the key signature of F.  This one is just straight forward memorization.  After that you go to the next to the last flat.  The order of the flats is:

Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb

If your music had three flats, those flats would be:  Bb, Eb, Ab and you would be in the key of Eb.

Here is a chart of all the flat key signatures:

 Understanding and memorization of the key signatures can cut down a huge number of mistakes and misunderstandings.  Take the time to really understand how sharps and flats work and use that information to your advantage.

No Comments » Posted by heather / Theory

Oct 6th 2010 iphone metronome app

Thanks to the Chou family for showing me this app.

No Comments » Posted by heather / Just For Fun and Piano Practice

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