musicality

  • How can I get my piano students to play musically?
  • Will they ever learn to truly perform rather than just play?
  • How can I help them to become more confident music readers?

These are some of the challenges that Alison Mathews has addressed in her new book “Doodles” published by Editions Musica Ferrum.

Aimed at beginners to around grade 3 (ABRSM), this chunky book contains 128 little pieces of 4-8 bars (measures) arranged in four difficulty levels.

Now the interesting part! Rather than name each piece, Mathews has provided a small picture, often an emoji, hence the title “Doodles,” which is meant to inspire a mood in the music student. She has also given lots of interesting directions like, “playfully – fish are chasing in the coral” or “fast and furious – what else could you do to make it sound stormy?” I love how at the centre of these short activities the emphasis is on performance. The pupil just simply can’t resist but will soon be inspired to create their own pieces. Watch out John Williams, we will all be writing shark music at this rate!

An interesting feature is the use of the same pieces at each level but with increased difficulty and technique. This a great way to help a student see how to develop a composition. I can see my pupils having lots of fun improvising with these pieces and using them as the basis of their own compositions. Young pupils love engaging their imagination, so this book will inspire them not only to be better readers of music but more importantly, to play with feeling and understanding.

Lots of different playing techniques are explored through the pieces and are an intrinsic part of each song. Legato, staccato, dynamics, tremolandi and glissandi are all represented. I’ve even picked up a tip for helping young pupils to play a glissando without hurting their fingers by using a roll of sellotape!

My only criticism is that there are no key signatures used. I’m very keen on introducing a sense of key very early in development but this is a “minor” grumble compared with the fantastic way that musicality is being taught here. Maybe this is an issue that could be addressed in later editions or subsequent volumes.

For its ability to inspire musicality in such a fun and engaging way, this book gets a big thumbs up from me.

To purchase the book, click here.

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LangPiano

I remember a parent once asking me: “Can you ask Jonny to brush his teeth regularly? He will listen to you!”

Sometimes a lesson is learnt better from someone less familiar.

For a couple of months I’ve been trying an idea with my students which has been very successful, maybe it might work for you and your pupils. Enter the masterclass video!

One of my adult students found an app called “Mastering the Piano with Lang Lang.” The app has three levels at the moment (more coming) each containing eight units of high-quality videos and music designed to help piano students improve their technique and musicality.

At the start of each lesson, I show my pupils one of these videos, working our way systematically through the app one video per week. The videos are only short, most less than a couple of minutes but Lang Lang, as well as being a fabulous musician and teacher, is friendly and entertaining. After the video has finished, I look for application in their pieces they are currently learning which helps to reinforce the specific concept under consideration.

Lang

Some of the practical topics are: playing faster, legato playing, staccato playing, dynamics, playing chords, posture, hand position, making mistakes, etc. What I love about the videos is that they can be understood by a beginner but also have value to the advanced student alike.

The results have been overwhelming! My students have loved his teaching, have listened and applied his advice and as a result, their technique and musicality has been greatly improved. I’m now looking at other apps and videos from masters of other genres that might be effective. Do you know of any good videos I could try? Please feel free to add a comment to the blog.

Isn’t it strange how “Jonny” listens to Lang Lang even though I’ve often been telling them similar things in the past! Maybe Lang Lang can bring out an app about brushing your teeth!

 

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