Practicing

Tips for how to practice well, or how to encourage students to practice

The piano is one of the most popular instruments in the world for many reasons, from its sound to its welcoming nature to beginners, however there are a lot of exercises to be done before fully learning the instrument.

While it can be easy to play at first, there is a lot to learn and a very high skill ceiling when it comes to the piano.

In order to continue developing piano skills, teachers need to remind their students the importance of practice and exercises.

Warm Up Exercises

Just like any sport, you need to be in control of your body and muscles by having warm ups and exercises to avoid injuries and improve your performance.

This applies to a pianist’s fingers, so remember to stretch your fingers, your arms and get ready to start playing piano.

The Hanon Exercises

The Hanon exercises for piano were created by French piano pedagogue and composer Charles Louis-Hanon, these exercises consist of independent finger practice. The main goal consists of training the pianist in speed, agility, strength and precision of fingers, as well as training wrist flexibility and endurance. There are 60 finger exercises that were made into a book called The Virtuoso Pianist which was first published in 1873. The exercises include beginner level, moderate and advanced level of training.

There are three main areas that you can improve with the hanon exercises, these are:

  • Finger strength and independence
  • Overall endurance
  • Strength in the wrist and the forearm

These are two of the most effective exercises:

This one improves finger strength and independence, as well as wrist and forearm strength.

This one helps with wrist and forearm strength and endurance.

There are many many more but this is just a taste of what these wonderful exercises offer.

Exercises for Children

Exercises may not be as fun as playing a complete piece, this is specially true to younger piano players.

The idea is that exercises should be fun for children, it needs to feel like a game, for example, teachpianotoday.com has a few good ideas like:

Have your student place their hand on a table top with their wrist resting on the surface and their fingers nicely curved.  This is the “spider”.  He needs to stretch each of his legs.  Have your student reach one finger at a time starting with their thumb and reaching in an upward motion while keeping their other fingertips touching the table top and without allowing their knuckles to collapse.  You can hold something for the spider legs to reach  up to touch, giving them something to aim for.

Once your student has mastered this, this you can give the spider specific exercises for his legs.  Write out finger numbers in random order and have the spider’s legs lift accordingly (ie. 1-3-5-2-4).

So the main thing should be to find fun little twists in order to make it feel like a game.

Mikael Pettersson Tips

Exercises

Mikael Petterson is Swedish concert pianist. He obtained a B Mus (Hons) degree at Birmingham Conservatoire the year 2000 and also attended  Masterclasses with Prof. Hans Leygraf and Prof. Peter Feuchtwanger.

After that he became inspired during his time at the Birmingham Conservatoire, he began teaching piano at various levels which eventually took him to become the Head of Keyboard Studies for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students completing a Music Degree at the University of Wolverhampton.

In an interview with crosseyedpianist.com he talks

I wanted to pass on my ideas on the physical approach to piano playing.  Following my studies with Peter Feuchtwanger, I teach my students various exercises where the focus is on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’.  So the movements, relaxation of certain muscles and tension of others are all important, while the notes in this case are almost incidental. I therefore  encourage the students not to be overly concerned with accuracy but instead to learn a new movement and degree of relaxation that can then be incorporated into the repertoire.  There is a great advantage to having this one aspect in isolation since when performing a piano work there are so many musical elements to consider.  Technique and teaching of movements at the keyboard is often neglected until the teaching becomes quite involved, by which stage bad habits have often set in and are hard to correct.  The DVD may be used to learn the exercises from scratch in which case it is paramount to try copying the movements demonstrated as closely as possible.  In the case of my own students the DVD is used as a reminder of the exercises and to support the information I give in the lessons.  Closely related to these exercises are fingerings which are chosen to encourage a particular movement when working on repertoire.  The traditional ‘five finger position’ is not present; in fact there is rarely a position but always a movement which gives much more suppleness and freedom at the keyboard.

There are always new techniques and discoveries in order to make learning piano a lot easier so be on the lookout for new ideas to improve your piano lessons.

 

Read More

Guitar lessons sometimes seem like an easy task, but keeping your students engaged is a very hard task.

Sometimes, exploring is a good way to make your lessons fresh, and while it may seem distant, some youtube creators manage to be great teachers.

Rick Beato is one of those content creators on youtube, he is a music teacher, producer and has been making content on YouTube for quite a while, getting over 2 million subscribers on the platform.

One of the biggest difficulties when it comes to guitar lessons is that beginners find it very hard to play the first notes and chords, but in reality there are a few tips that can

That’s where Rick’s videos come in.

Varied Content

Rick Beato’s channel has a lot of different content, of course, all of it about music but, one of the most interesting things about him is that his taste is hard to define.

You can easily click a video from him and watch him break down a Beethoven piece, one analyzing the top 10 songs on spotify or getting every detail about Phil Collins’ drums.

Why is this important? Well first of all he is able to connect with a wider audience instead of dismissing certain genres. This also reverberates in his teaching and tutorials,  because he knows his audience comes from many different places.

When he gets into the guitar lessons, he won’t teach classical, rock, jazz, flamenco, that is up to the person learning.

Guitar Lessons

Guitar Lessons

There are a few videos on guitar lessons by Rick, but there is one that is worth checking out as he talks about the experience teaching his children how to play guitar during lockdown.

He then proceeds to talk about some of the things that every beginner should remember when starting to learn how to play guitar.

In this video Rick helps solve some of the most common mistakes every beginner makes when starting to play guitar. These common issues are:

Rhythm and Strumming

Most people have a hard time strumming and at first the play the guitar with the thumb strumming down, and then with a bit more time they let loose of the wrist, however there is no rhythm

Finger Positioning

At first when learning chords, it feels like a strange game of twister where your fingers feel uncomfortable, and it may seem like a very common problem with easy solutions, but some of these solutions can really take a beginner a long way with just a few tips.

Sometimes it’s about the transitions between one chord to the other, and other times it comes to scales, but there is no denying that finger positioning is something that is very easy to get wrong, and because it is something so basic, it’s easy to feel discouraged from learning the instrument right away.

Not Muting Strings Properly

Many beginners don’t pay attention to what they are actually supposed to play, what this means is that they may get the strumming and finger positioning, but if they are playing notes that shouldn’t actually be played, it’s going to sound messy and bad.

This is also due to the fact that the strings that should be muted are usually the open strings, this makes it so that, if it is played, it’s going to be very present in the chord.

From one Chord to Another

It feels so hard to finally get every finger in place and then they have to change in order to play another chord.

This is often one of the first hardest things a beginner guitarrist face.

It’s not just about doing it, it’s also about maintaining the rhythm of the strumming intact while doing it.

The solution to these beginner guitar issues can be solved in many ways.

Today the recomendation is to watch Rick Beato’s tips, not only because it’s not a very long video, it’s because every minute of it will be useful when confronting your new guitar.

Why Are His Videos Worth Your Time?

Rick is an experienced teacher, but he manages to show so much in so little time that it makes for perfect content for YouTube.

Today, many people of all ages start to learn how to play instruments and get into music through YouTube and this can be a very interesting learning process.

Getting to this channel can be quite good for a beginner not just because of guitar lessons, but the way he approaches every music genre and respects every different type of sound.

This can be seen in other videos where he breaks down songs or goes through music in the form of video essay/class and it can be a very interesting and fun learning experience for a beginner musician.

 

Read More

One of the most common misconceptions about music education is that you can’t learn how to play an instrument as an adult. While it can be a bit more difficult, it’s not impossible at all, it’s actually a very good idea, because many people want to get into music at a later time in their lives.

There are some things that make wanting to learn an instrument as an adult kind of intimidating, this includes, time, a lack of that learning spark we all have when we are young or even what other people may say.

In order to get a confidence boost to hop into learning an instrument, here are a few musical instruments that are quite easy to get into.

Piano/Keyboard

Learn

Of course the piano has so much depth in terms of sound and potential but there are two main reasons as to why it’s an instrument that’s is actually easy to learn. First of all, if you have no prior knowledge of music, the keys of a piano makes it easir for a beginner to structure musi

It’s a case of easy to learn but hard to master but it’s one of the most satisfiying musical instruments to learn.

There is also the option to purchase a keyboard, which is a lot more accesible than a piano. This however comes with the fact that every keyboard has its strengths and weaknesess, so depending on the approach you’re looking for.

Aside from the sound there is also the keys on the keyboard. What this means is that some keyboards have weight on their keys just like a piano does, but some don’t. This may not seem like much but the feel of the instrument is important so imagine being a beginner and starting piano classes, you buy a keyboard and it feels different, but you have more time with the keyboard than the piano, and everytime you play piano you mess up and you don’t know why.

In conclusion it’s a small but important thing, even more so as a beginner.

Ukelele

The ukelele it’s a good option to get into the strings side of the musical instruments, due to the fact that it has that strumming easy to go part from the guitar, but it’s actually way easier because of it having only four strings instead of four. You could argue that the bass also hass four strings, but when it comes to the bass, there is a more rigorous way of playing in terms of rythm. It’s also not as “free” as the guitar or ukelele, melodically speaking, and for someone that is just picking up an instrument for the first time, pressing a bass string it’s a lot harder than pressing a ukelele string, so there is that minor detail.

Harmonica

The harmonica has many things in favor as an easy instrument to learn. First of all it’s quite small, so there are no limitations as to where you could practice.

This is an instrument that almost always sounds good, sure if you are just playing it like crazy it may sound just like that, but it’s not hard to start from zero and get some easy tunes.

It is important however to have in mind that there are different types of harmonicas and depending on what type of music you like, there is a specific type of harmonica for it. It’s not hard to do the research and you can even ask before buying, it’s all about exploring what fits you.

Of course that in the end any instrument is an option, no one should be forced to choose one instrument or the other just because it’s easier to learn, however it’s good to have some ideas of what some of these instruments offer when it comes to the first approach.

Read More