October Master Class
How many people can we stuff into our relatively small piano studio? We were able to fit about eleven people inside last month! First we were delighted as a few piano veterans demonstrated their prowess on various scales and chords. Then we were treated to several brave performances in lots of interesting styles. Between mouthfuls of sweet breakfast food, we worked our rhythm muscles at Rhythm Boot Camp and were rewarded afterwards with a fun but challenging game: "Rhythm Cranium." (We also "oohed" and "ahhhed" over an impressive, professional video performance of a piano work by Franz Liszt.) With not enough time for the entire game of Cranium at the end, we decided to restart our game at a later master class when we have more time to play. It was a lot to fit in, but since our masterclass, I have noticed much greater facility with rhythm in all who attended. We'll continue to visit rhythm and counting in a more focused way for a few more lessons. Our next master class is on Saturday, November 22nd. Our attendance is probably going to be much slimmer this month and so our activities will likely center on games and activities tailored to 3-4 people. ALSO: All who are attending, could you let me know if you would be able to make it at 9:00 AM rather than 10:00 AM? I have a personal conflict and need to leave by 11:00 but don't want to cut the class short. Just let me know in your lesson this week! Thanks.
First, I want to say how impressed I have been with lesson preparation in general in the studio. Great work, everyone, keep it up! Now, I'd like to pass on a practice hint (moms and dads, please pass this on if your pianist isn't going to read). As you grow into more and more advanced music, it can be hard to keep finding things to practice in your music, even though you know it's not perfect yet. What do you do when you can mostly play a piece but you know it needs that final push to be "performance ready"?
My first key concept is TRANSITIONS. Transitions occur between two sections of homogenous music, usually the point at which hands move to a new place or a new melody begins. However, for our purposes, think of a transition as any spot where you find yourself pausing and searching for the next note (even briefly). In your music, go through and draw parentheses about 2 beats before and after that point where you always pause. Do this all of the way through your music. Then, when you practice, just practice what is between the parentheses until it's smooth. This gives you a laser focus for each practice time--you'll see so much more progress when you limit your playing to those specific spots until they are solid.
The second concept is ENDINGS. "All's well that ends well!" It's true, if you can pull off a solid, memorable finish to your piece, no one remembers a stumble or two in the middle of the piece. The idea is that since we tend to start at the beginning and learn through to the end, the end of the piece is the least repeated and thus, the weakest. This week, practice this exercise: play the very last beat of your piece--both left and right hands, all notes. Repeat it a few times. Now start at the second-to-last beat and play to the end. Play them two or three times. If solid, start at the third-to-last beat. Repeat. As you do this, you are making the last beat a highly repeated event. Repetition leads to strength! In no time, the last half of your piece will become as strong as the first. Now, you just need TRANSITION practice to bridge them!
Progress reports are coming out next week--I apologize for the delay in these. I'll be sending them with each student in a regular letter-sized envelope.
Thanks for a great first quarter!