Teaching Tips

Tips for teaching music

teaching musical expression

I wonder sometimes about all those dynamics markings. Crescendo, pianissimo,
forte, mezzo forte. They give us a good sense of what the composer wanted, or
what the editor suggests. It’s important to know how to honor those ideas and
do them justice.

But how far do we go with them? Are they like clicks on a volume-control knob? Do we play at a marked volume until a new symbol appears? How much personal interpretation do we allow ourselves, or allow our students?

Do you treat expression as a higher level technique, something that is only added once more fundamental techniques are mastered? Or do you regard expression as fundamental, and if so, how and when do you incorporate it into lessons?

This question struck me suddenly one time when I was judging a high-level  [···]

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teaching classical music

No matter how beautiful the notes, it’s timing that’s at the heart of the music, so it’s no wonder many players tap their toes. Notes played badly but with good timing still present a recognizable piece of music, whereas notes played beautifully but with careless or unanchored timing can be confusing to listen to, or even unidentifiable.  (See my blog of 10/10.)

How do we make certain of good timing?

There are many angles to that question but for the moment, I’d just like to comment on how musicians reinforce the beat with physical movements, such as tapping feet.

I’ve often noticed that those who play with the clearest sense of timing move physically in some way, as they play. Those who have trouble with timing almost invariably sit or stand nearly motionless.  It seems that even a little motion in time to the music can bring a player down to earth, away from constant worries about how to do everything, and into the realm of feeling the music.

Probably the most important way to reinforce timing is by  [···]

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Do you provide practice charts to your students? Do you have them make their own charts? Or do you have them mark their practicing into a lesson book?

Sometimes I use charts, and would like to use them more often. They’re very helpful for many students. We all know that practice results in progress, but having a written record of practicing rewards us with concrete evidence of having put in the time.

My motto about practicing is, “The more you play, the better you get; and the more you play correctly, the faster you get better.”

Not everyone would agree with me. Some feel that if you play a lot with bad habits, you’ll get worse. But I think that if someone plays a lot, it’s because they enjoy it, and habits are fixable, especially if someone has the motivation that comes from enjoyment of the instrument. On the other hand, some people who are dedicated to perfect habits can also be so afraid of making mistakes that they don’t practice enough to make progress and enjoy themselves.

What should a practice chart display? The number of minutes spent practicing per day? I think only a few students respond well to demands that they practice a certain number of minutes per day. Sometimes this demand just chills the motivation of students. It happened to my daughter, anyway.  She used to  [···]

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