Summer Practice Challenge

Summer is HERE!  We are super excited to enjoy some relaxing time with friends and family!  But.... we still need to practice so we don't loose what we've learned all year!  So enter the Summer Practice Challenge!  The first student to finish this challenge gets a prize!

Download the PDF right here!

Student Post- Preparing for an Exam - What to Do and what NOT to Do

    Here’s a list of advice during and before an examination. I hope this will be helpful!

    ALWAYS PRACTICE: When you are preparing for an exam, always practice as much as you can! Not practicing for an exam can make you very stressed out and worried on the day of said exam. I, once had not practiced much the week before the exam and ended up very stressed and worried about my mark. So always practice for an exam, and you can get a really high mark!

    FIRST IMPRESSIONS: First impressions are everything! Wear the right clothes, and always be prepared. If you are not wearing the proper clothing, the examiner will be lead to believe that you are not taking this exam seriously and chances are that he/she will probably give you a slightly lower mark than you’d get usually. So wear nice clothes, and enter with a smile! (*see below for teacher's note)

    ARRIVE ON TIME: Arriving on time to your examination is VERY important. During my first exam, my grandparents had forgotten to pick me up from school, therefore I was late. Thankfully, the staff had simply rearranged my schedule so that I could continue with my examination instead of having them cancel it completely. So go over with your parents about your plan, as many times as you need!

    DON’T BE STRESSED: It may seem obvious to you, but not being stressed is VERY important in order to succeed in an exam. When the examiner tells you to do something, you don’t have to do it immediately; take your time. Breathe. Picture a little voice in your head, telling you to be calm. Don’t be distracted, and don’t be afraid to take your time! 

    That’s all the advice I have for now, and I hope that you will succeed on your exam!

*(Teacher's Note):  While showing up to an exam in ripped jeans and a t-shirt with your favourite band printed on the front is not an ideal outfit for success, it really doesn't effect the mark you will receive.  However, wearing appropriate clothing will help you feel more confident and like they say, dress for the job (or mark) you want.  ED

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Student Post- Steps to Learning A New Piece

Hi My name is Aiden and these are the steps that I go through to learn a song.

  1. Look at the first note and where it is on the piano and loot to see if you have the right fingering.
  2. Put the metronome at a slow speed
  3. Practice hands separately 
  4. Do the parts that you are having the most trouble with 3 times in a row with no mistakes
  5. Practice the spot that you need help on until you get it.
  6. Practice transitions
  7. One you get the whole song add dynamics
  8. Speed up the metronome
  9. Make sure you can place the piece at speed
  10. After, memorize the song

Hope these steps helped.

 

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Student Composer Projects

Every year Emily has her students learn about composers (probably because she loves to learn about composers) and they come up with a project.  For many of her students they made posters - here are a few.  She also had some students make videos of their research - here's a link to those projects.

Student Post- How I Overcame Challenges with Rhythm

Hi my name is Olivia,

Not that long ago I had trouble with rhythm.  I got really mad when I couldn't do it.  But now what calms me down is I just take a break for 10 or 5 minutes and then I try again.  If I got mad again I would take a break for 15 or 20 minutes at that point I didn't get mad anymore.  Thanks for reading my letter.

By Olivia

 

Olivia was having trouble with rhythm and while I suggested that when she got super frustrated she take a small break and come back to her piece, what really worked for her is to count out loud with a metronome and then count and clap with the metronome.  

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Student Post- Mental Piano, Dealing with Frustration

 Mental Piano 

Many students who learn piano may be curious and ask how does one deal with the frustration of practicing piano and learning, and completing piano lessons. Well, here are your answers.

How does it Happen?

Frustration happens when your mind is all focusing on how to perfect your piece or scale and you are trying too hard to make it perfect; your brain may get lost in doing trying to do this. Frustration may also happen when you are not focus enough on what you are doing, such as practicing piano, but you still want to do it like when you are focused, e.g. not being in the zone, tired, or having external distractions. These are things that may cause one to be frustrated while trying to practice, learn, and/or complete piano practice or lessons.  

Ways to prevent it

There are many ways to prevent yourself from being discouraged. 

  1.     1.Be true to yourself: sometimes you just don’t want to play piano, everyone gets it. But remember and be sure to play it later when you are ready.
  2. Have confidence: be confident to do the piece and persevere in doing the piece
  3. Calm yourself: think calmly and try to clear your mind of distractions, don’t worry too much about things.
  4. Clear your place of piano playing from any distractions: have a good location for practicing with no external distractions around. 

Solutions by the writer

Hi, my name is Elijah and I have been playing piano for quite a while now.  The above listed points that can frustrated students in playing piano have all occurred to me in the past. However, I now have some strategies on how you and I and you can cope with frustration. Sometimes you will need to walk away for a while and then come back to the music piece or scale later, to freshen your mind or calm yourself down. You need to breathe as well as think calmly, and trust yourself that you can complete the piece eventually. There is really no need to stress about anything!

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Student Post - Balancing Art and Sport

Extra Curriculars and Piano

Managing piano with life is a difficult thing when there’s so much that has to be done. As a 16 year old student athlete, I have a hard time fitting piano into my schedule. In the next few paragraphs, I will be sharing ways to manage your time, to use it to relax and to help focus.

Time Management: 

Being able to manage your time is an asset in life. Managing your piano schedule wont just help you practice more, but it will also teach you an essential life skill. I find practicing first thing in the morning, works best for me. I get it done right away and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to practice, or squeezing it in last minute. Some might argue that practicing at night  works best for them. That’s totally fair because its about what works for you, not the next person.  Having an agenda  or calendar is an easy and organized way to manage activities and practices. I prefer reminders on my phone since my mind is constantly racing and I tend to forget about things.

Focus:

Focusing is a difficult task when you have a million things to do, but If you can focus for even ten minutes to work on a piece, or even just going over an old one, then you’ll be better focused for the next thing on your to-do list.  When you det your mind on one goal, and you achieve it, you feel good.  If you focus on that one measure that you’ve been stuck on for a while and finally smooth it out, there’s a sense of satisfaction that you start to crave. You can get that same feeling in everyday tasks, and it’ll slowly get you to focus on the task at hand. 

Relaxing:

Piano shouldn't be a stressor in your life. Instead, it should be used to help you focus, escape reality, or to chill out.  If you are feeling overly stressed about things, take a step back and re-evaluate your situation. If you find its piano that’s working against you, try and find a way to fix that, whether its slowing down how much you play, or asking your parents to stop pressuring you so much. If there are other stressors in your life, try using piano to calm you down. Have one song that you really enjoy and know so well, and get lost in it. Use piano as an escape and to relieve you from stress.

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Online Recital?

Some of our students were unable to attend the concert at the beginning of the month.  In order to have them participate we offered students the option of performing their pieces at their lesson and recording the performance to post on our website and facebook page later.  

Well, welcome to the Online Piano Recital!  Click on this link to get to our Facebook Page to see the recital or this link to the Youtube page with our student work and the recital.

 

Student Post - Overcoming a Dislike of Practice

Overcoming Practicing

 

 

Practicing is going awesome because of my favourite piano teacher Emily. I overcome practicing by using the chart that Emily made me.

 

 

The chart show’s me what days I need to practice. The chart looks like this Tuesday 30 min, 5 min piece A, Sneaky Sam, beat 132. Also I need to play the piece staccato or legato also my dynamics. Then the octave scales, contrary motion, broken triads. Then I do my four-star day 1&2. The chart helps me organize my time. It also helps me by setting a goal for this week.

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Student Post- Practice Tips from a Student

Dear Piano Students,

My name is Addison.  I am 8 years old. Mrs. Emily has been my teacher for almost 1 year.  I enjoy learning new songs and making people happy when they hear my music.  I've learned how to play a lot of new songs.  My three favourite songs right now are:  Circus Tumblers, Stepping Stones and The Frantic Ant. When I am learning a new song sometimes I get frustrated and overwhelmed when it is difficult. When this happens I know to walk away from my piano and do something different like reading.  After my break when I'm feeling better I try again.  Mrs. Emily taught me to break the song up into pieces. I keep trying over and over again until I master the song.  If you ever feel frustrated with piano you could try what I do.  Happy playing the piano!

Your friend Addy

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Recital Round Up

Recitals are tricky things.  We have 3 in our studio mainly so students don't have to sit for longer than 45 minutes.  This year we did something different - we used the Teach Piano Today recital bingo to help students critically listen to music that was being played while they waited to perform or to think about after they had played.  My favourite square was "Made me want o learn the same piece".  Students came back to lessons with a list of pieces they wanted to aspire to learn - I love when students motivate others.  I also loved the square "deserved a standing ovation".  

The concept was great and yet it didn't completely represent what happens in our studio so I made my own for the next recital we have.  

Take a look at the squares from Teach Piano Today and from the one I made and maybe talk to your student about their performances as well as those they listened to.  This type of critical listening is super important for musicians.

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Student Post - Preparation for Recitals and Other Public Performances

-By Gabriele Martinez

Public performances, such as recitals, can be pretty stressful to prepare for. This is why most people, (myself included:D) sometimes prefer not to be a part of these events. So in this article, I’m going to mention how you should prepare for these events, and stuff like that.

 

 

First of all, practice, practice, PRACTICE!!! Practicing is very important, so that when you go up on stage, you won’t mess up too much! Also, if you practice frequently, you will begin to feel more confident when you play your piece, so you’ll be less nervous when you play in front of a crowd. But, how should you practice? Well, the way you practice varies between people, but good strategies for practicing include repetitive practice, practicing in chunks, setting a goal, practicing with a metronome and taking notes (to help you find your mistakes and fix them). Also, another thing is when you practice, you should eliminate all the distractions and concentrate on what you’re practicing, because if you don’t, you’ll end up getting sidetracked and then you won’t get anything done. Staying relaxed while practicing is also very important, because it’s easier to work when you’re relaxed, rather than when you’re all stressed out and tense.

 

Lastly, if you don’t want to feel too nervous, then try to play your piece in front of a smaller crowd, even if it’s just one person, just so you’re playing for someone. Also, if you’re playing for someone else, you can ask them for their opinion on how you played the piece, because sometimes there are things that you can’t hear when you play that other people can. It’s very important because sometimes you can be playing something wrong but you won’t notice, and you should find and correct these things before the performance day, so that when you play, you’ll sound better.

 

That’s all for this article, thank you so much for your attention and have a great day!

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Practice S-L-O-W-L-Y, and we mean at a snails pace

Slow practice is used by the top musicians to make sure they really know their piece. Rachmaninov was notorious for doing this (and who can criticize HIM!?).  But WHY practice so slowly?

  • when learning a new piece this can help to give your brain time to learn the piece

  • when you have a section that moves super fast - it can help you to gain control and develop better fine motor skills needed

  • what about places that need dynamics or ornaments? This is a great opportunity to get better at those details in your piece.

  • You already know your piece backwards and forwards? Try it super super slow and see what details you can add!

  • Memorization happens easier if you do it slow. (just sayin')

Slow practice is better practice according to the great musicians and who are we to argue with  Rachmaninov?!

Thanks Practicing The Piano!

 

Anxiety and Failure

This is my anxiety.  I'll just put that out there in the intranets.  I'm afraid of failing.  Whenever I go to play a piece publicly I am afraid of forgetting the piece, of loosing my spot, of playing it poorly, of stumbling so much that I can't recover-  in short of failing.

Here are some great ideas for dealing with that fear of failure

  • the day of the concert offer quiet distractions like drawing or reading

  • have your student play the piece for family and friends - reinforce what they did well

  • talk to your student about what will happen if they make an error - reinforce that it's about recovery and not perfection

  • remind students that there is no perfect performance - only perfect for THEM

So on the day of a concert I don't practice my piece.  I ignore it.  I distract myself with a million other things.  I practice my technical exercises before I go to play but only to warm my fingers up.  When I'm sitting waiting for my turn I try to think of anything BUT my performance because I tend to work myself up. ( Luckily for me a lot of my performances are at concerts I am MC'ing so I get to keep my mind off of my piece. ) After the performance I try to remind myself what I did well and focus on that, only going through the parts that were not excellent to try to learn from them.  This is my performance process.  It works for me.  What do you do when you have to perform?

 

Anxiety and Performance - Fear of the Unknown

 If you have talked about the performance and have determined that your student is anxious about playing, we can then try to find out what the anxiety is about.  Some students are afraid of performance because they haven't performed before, or they haven't performed in a formal setting before.  

To help students with this particular anxiety I will sometimes take them to the recital space and have them scope it out.  Feeling comfortable with where they are playing can make them feel a whole lot better.  

We often do a mock recital in lessons where I call up the student and have them bow and then play their piece and down again and sit down - we practice their performances.  It feels silly when we are doing it, but I've noticed with my students who are seriously nervous about the recital this can help.  

Try doing this at home - playing for more people and practicing the recital protocol can help anxious students feel more relaxed when the time comes for them to play.  

Anxiety and Performance - Is it your student or is it you?

There is some debate about how much we download our own fears and anxieties onto our children (or our students for that matter).  Sometimes it's worth asking WHY a student is anxious instead of assuming (we've all done this, me included).  

So here are some questions to ask students about performance anxiety (assuming your student IS anxious)

  1. How do you feel when we talk about playing at the recital?

  2. How do you feel when you play a recital?

  3. How would you feel if I recorded you playing when you are practicing? (why or why not)

  4. Would you like to play your piece for our family? (Why or why not)

Sometimes saying to a student "don't feel nervous" or the like, can cause MORE anxiety or create anxiety where there is none. Instead probe your student to tell them in their own words, with their own experiences, how it feels to perform.  Remind them of the amazing amount of work they have put into their piece and how proud of them you are (don't qualify why you are proud of them though!).  We are proud of all of our students for having the courage to play their recitals and it doesn't change how proud we are of them if they play flawlessly (no such thing!) or make serious errors.  They did it and that's what counts.

Let us know if there are any tricks you've used to deal with anxiety!  

Random Practice doesn't mean Random Practice, if you know what I mean

Before you think that I'm advocating that everyday you practice at different times, (which goes against my whole philosophy of practice times) relax!  I'm not saying that at all.  Keep your routine but change up WHAT you do while you practice - change it up every day if you like - and see what happens!

Students who choose a few choice areas to work on and rotate through them often work through material faster than students who choose to play the piece from start to finish every time for their allocated practice time.  We already know that.  But I'm going to share with you something that the Bulletproof Musician shared with us on his blog - an ACTUAL schedule.

He suggests 3 minute time chunks 

  1. 3 minutes of spot A

  2. 3 minutes of spot B

  3. 3 minutes of spot C

  4. 3 minutes of spot A again

  5. 3 minutes of spot B again

  6. 3 minutes of spot C again

  7. etc

Trying out a different way to practice can make practicing seem less like drudgery and more like an exploration of the music.  What are your best practice tips?

PS - thanks to the bulletproof musician for his post

Chunk Practice

Greg and I are always interested in how to practice more efficiently for ourselves (we don't have much time) and our students (so many after school activities!).  In my research we discovered some cool things about when to practice and what to practice. 

We often tell our students to chunk their pieces- it helps to learn smaller sections and get better at those then to do the whole piece over and over again. The research says that chunking your piece helps with remembering your piece better.

Apparently the best time to CHANGE chunks is just before you feel like you're getting it right or it feels comfortable.  The reasoning is it is better for your brain to retrieve the chunk if you mix it up.  Retrieving material needs to be done again and again so that your brain has to do some work and it's not just automatic.  This requires concentration which is GOOD for our students who have difficulty doing passages again and again and again and again - they start to let their mind go on vacation and it becomes harder and harder.  With this method they do it just until they've almost got it (maybe 2 times in a row without error) and then we move on to another chunk and repeat the process.  When it comes time to play that original chunk again, students are concentrating just because they HAVE to.  

My students will be happy with this change of practice and I know I'll be happier when I use it too!  What are your thoughts?