Learning musicality - Icing on the cake?

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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 12:21 pm

Stretto wrote:Wouldn't you agree certain "techniques" in playing the keys are something to aim for and practice rather then perfecting right on the spot in the lesson?

Absolutely, technique is something to aim for and practice.

The techniques, however, can only be learned at a lesson.

Children have no idea of the concept of technique, which must be taught by their piano teacher at the lesson.

There is no need, however, to perfect technique during lesson time.

They need to practice these techniques at home, aiming for perfection.

It is not necessary to aim for perfection at the lesson. That is what practice sessions are for. :)




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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 12:36 pm

loveapiano wrote:I agree, Stretto, but there are many ways (misconceptions) of the way to teach technique.

I do 5 finger exercises - with dynamics, and legato/staccato, and varied thythms, and even my 5 year olds listen and differentiate the sounds. I show them the best way to sit and put their hands on the keyboard, but especially with the young children (even some of my 8 and 9 year olds,) it is difficult, if not impossible, stay on the chair and the chair stays in the same place!!

When I think of technique, I think of older students, perfecting their music. Perhaps it is the definition I need to clarify.

Joan

There are as many ways to teach piano as there are ways to learn, Joan.

It's quite obvious that adults all have different learning styles, and apparently children learn in different ways, too.

The misconceptions arise when this fact is not taken into consideration.

Whether we realize it or not, technique is taught from day one. Posture, foot position, finger exercises are all methods of technique. This process does not happen automatically, but takes considerable time to learn.

Older students must learn the same basic techniques, but we can also teach them more advanced technique after they have a solid foundation with strong basic technique.




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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:38 pm

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:Unfortunately most teachers don't really know how to teach technique. You've got to know some rudimentary anatomy, for one thing, such as the fact that different sets of muscles control the different finger joints, and where to look for proper movements and unwanted tension. 'Relaxation' is a much misunderstood concept--how can you relax and do something at the same time? You have to understand that it is intermittent and partial, and that this is how we get muscle tone and elasticity at the same time.

I can here everybody saying, "Yes, but that's advanced technique--we're teaching little kids!" But that's precisely where it has to start--before the wrong habits get ingrained!

Bill L.

I wholeheartely agree, Dr. B, and may I add that most teachers don't know how to teach technique because most teachers are clueless when it comes to the mysterious subject of technique. ???

Some teachers have some knowledge of technique, and aren't even aware that what they are teaching is called technique.
Some aren't aware of the reasons for, or the importance of technique.
I don't think too many teachers would disagree with the concept of technique if they realized how important technique really is. :;):

Teachers need to be aware of what technique is. It is the basic foundation for musicality, and proper development.

Musically speaking, technique effectively brings out the variety and richness of a broad spectrum of sounds which can be performed at the piano.

Mechanically speaking, technique enables us to use our bodies to produce the desired sounds through proper body position, finger and arm movements, and to promote the devlopment of good habits. :)

Ideally, a teacher has some knowledge of body movement, arm, hand and finger mechanics. Knowledge of rudimentary anatomy would cover this, and enhance technique, but ergonomics, (the effective use of body position to prevent stress injuries) would cover this from a different but equally important angle.

It is most important that even the youngest child get guidance to prevent development of, at the very least, bad habits.

More importantly, early intervention with proper technique can prevent a variety of problems, not the least of which includes muscle spasms, pinched nerves, joint deformities, carpal tunnel syndrome and back problems.

Posture, an obvious example of technique, is especially important because slouching can lead to back problems. For this reason, good posture is taught from the very beginning. Poor posture also prevents a pianist from creating the diversity of musical sounds for which he/she is striving. :(

Technique stresses and promotes proper body alignment, muscle, bone, nerve and joint health and development while at the keyboard. At the same time technique allows a pianist to enhance musicality

We're not developing virtuosic technique, here, just building a strong foundation to support the possibility of further development. Technique will promote good habits, prevent bad habits from adversely affecting development, enable quality of musical artistry, support development both physically, and emotionally and empower the student to advance. :)




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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:04 pm

loveapiano wrote:I have trouble telling them a certain hand position or making their fingers bend or move by my touching them especially at 5. I am concerned they will get too busy concentrating on the fingers and not the sound they are making and the joy they are having.

Joan, I think teaching young chidren how to swim would be a fitting metaphore, here. Do you allow a child to begin splashing and playing, with the hope that they will not get hurt or drown? Or do you wade into the water with them, taking this critical opportunity to motivate them about learning pool safety, to teach them the how to's of kicking, arm movements and floating and ultimately, how to safely have fun while learning to swim?

The fun will always be there. If I were teaching my own child, I would want them to be aware of their surroundings, how to prevent an accident, how to swim, and how to feel safe, secure and comfortable in the water. The confidence they learn from learning how to swim won't be overconfidence, but confidence gained from being skilled. They will be able to have even more fun. :)


And it will be more fun for me, too, because if they decide to splash and play, I won't be a nervous wreck wondering if they'll get hurt while having fun. :D

Who knows? They may even decide to enter the Olympics as racers or synchronized swimmers,or just have fun teaching their own children some day. :cool:




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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 5:21 pm

Stretto wrote:... All this makes it tempting to just teach the notes and ignore teaching how to play the note letting the student play the note any way they happen to all for the sake of getting the notes and song learned quickly. It can become a habit: open the book to the next song and just start out getting the notes, like "what note is it and where is it on the keys, and what finger do you use?" and then move onto the next set of notes...
Also as a teacher insisting on striving for good technique and correcting things takes time and it's easy not to want to take the time at lessons...
That's why I'd have to agree how important technique is to learn from the beginning.

They can, with practice, easily learn the notes at home!

Practice sessions are for picking the notes out at the keyboard, and perfecting note-playing and technique.

Worksheets, workbooks, software programs, even practice just sight reading and sight singing their music at home will teach them the notes. That is, provided they are actually practicing those things. :;):




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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 6:59 pm

To sum up, what I've been trying to say, in lots and lots of words, in the last few posts of this forum, is this:

A good elementary teacher will focus on first the alphabet, then spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, definition, in short, all the techniques of language that will enable the student to advance from writing their alphabet, to words, to sentences to stories, to compositions, to essays, and eventually build up to thesis papers, (and their first novel)
:)

A music teacher will do the same thing, starting with the technique of note-spelling, key signatures, rhythm, tempo, phrasing, dynamics, tonality, all the techniques of musicianship that will enable the student to advance from playing notes, to playing a measure, to playing short pieces, to phrasing in compositions, to performing at recitals to eventually build up to playing auditions, competitions and possibly even concerts. :D

But if no one has shown the child how to correctly hold the pencil, all of the other techniques will be flawed, and writing will be labored, tiring, and the child will lose interest. If the piano teacher doesn't show the child posture, finger(keyboard) and body mechanics, the more advanced technique will, similarlly be flawed, fatiguing and labored, and the child will also lose interest... no matter how much fun he is having at the beginning, and no matter how much he loves the music he is playing, and no matter how proud his parents and teachers are of him or her. :(

A typist can't even progress without first learning and practicing the alphabet, numbers, characters, words, sentences, grammar, paragraphs, letters, etc, for precision speed and accuracy. Without proper ergonomics, we could not type for very long either without getting tired. :O


Teach, your children well.... and feed them on your dreams... and know they love you! ~ Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young




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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 8:16 pm

My piano teacher, with her spirit, her devotion and her love of the instrument inspired me to become one with the piano.

It happens very rarely, but when it happens it's worth waiting for, that the instrument becomes part of your body. ~Jack Brymer




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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 8:24 pm

Glissando88keys wrote:
Dr. Bill Leland wrote:Horowitz said, "Make your ear decide what it wants to hear." If we do that, we have to have a sound and a general musical idea in mind beforehand.

Dr. Leland's quote from Horowitz sounds a little Zen-ish ("Be the rock") :D , but is certainly apropos for this topic.

My piano teacher, with her spirit, her devotion and her love of the instrument inspired me to become one with the piano.
:)

It happens very rarely, but when it happens it's worth waiting for, that the instrument becomes part of your body. ~Jack Brymer




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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sun Jul 16, 2006 8:51 pm

No, sorry, I don't agree that a music teacher should start with all the details of note-naming, note-spelling, key signatures and all the rest. Pre-school kids certainly don't learn the basic spoken language that way--they learn by living in a family and a culture that speaks it, and they pick it up by imitation--'rote', if you prefer.

I will keep harping on my conviction that the most valuable thing a potential music student can have, preferably BEFORE taking lessons, is a musical environment in which he hears good music a large part of the time and becomes conversant with the language. Then the first lessons have to grab that familiarity and build on it by having the child make some music as soon as possible, with the academic details being filled in along the way.

(More Later).

Bill L.
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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 10:28 pm

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:No, sorry, I don't agree that a music teacher should start with all the details of note-naming, note-spelling, key signatures and all the rest. Pre-school kids certainly don't learn the basic spoken language that way--they learn by living in a family and a culture that speaks it, and they pick it up by imitation--'rote', if you prefer.

I will keep harping on my conviction that the most valuable thing a potential music student can have, preferably BEFORE taking lessons, is a musical environment in which he hears good music a large part of the time and becomes conversant with the language. Then the first lessons have to grab that familiarity and build on it by having the child make some music as soon as possible, with the academic details being filled in along the way.

(More Later).

Bill L.

Pre-school kids need to hear music, as much and as early as possible, so on that point, Dr. Bill, I agree. And I couldn't agree more that hearing music precludes everything else.

I would not even consider teaching pre-school kids note reading, etc. My posts were meant for music teachers who teach primarily school age or elementary school children and/or adults.

In fact, from personal experience, I advocate parents singing to children or playing beautiful music to infants, even as early as pregnancy, and especially when they are newborns and throughout their lives. It's a fact that children can hear sound while "in utero." If parents can't sing, they can hum, whistle, play CD's of music that moves them.

:D

(I also mentioned this when I posted a thread on the topic, "Best 5 things a parent can do.....)


Or, parents can bring children to music events, concerts, recitals, and provide every possible opportunity for their child to hear quality music.

Maybe if you keep harping parents and teachers will start listening. :laugh:


Dr. Bill, please continue. I eagerly await " More Later." :)




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Postby Stretto » Mon Jul 17, 2006 9:59 am

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:Unfortunately most teachers don't really know how to teach technique. You've got to know some rudimentary anatomy, for one thing . . .

So, what are some references? Any references for artistic, non-science minded people that make it easy to read and understand? Also, are what are some references in regards to how anatomy relates to the specifics of playing the piano?
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:38 am

[quote]So, what are some references? Any references for artistic, non-science minded people that make it easy to read and understand? Also, are what are some references in regards to how anatomy relates to the specifics of playing the piano?

I second that, Stretto. We are waiting, Dr. Bill ???
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Postby Mins Music » Thu Aug 03, 2006 11:42 am

What a huge thread!!

I don't think musicality is the icing on the cake. I think it's HOW the cake is MADE.

The recipe is the score
The ingredients are the skills we have
The mixing/beating is practise
Musicality is how we choose to make the cake
And of course the cake itself is the performance.

Why do I think musicality is how we make the cake? Because I believe if we are making music then we have some degree of musicality. Some of us choose to follow the recipe EXACTLY - why? Perhaps we don't know what else to do (limited skills/technique), we're afraid the cake won't turn out if we DON'T follow the recipe exactly (nerves, focusing externally instead of internally), and for some it just never occured that you COULD or SHOULD 'enhance' the recipe.

Some of us like to make chocolate cakes, others sponges, others fruit (all different genres of music) we like the 'taste' of one particular cake. Given enough cake making experience, we learn that "if I add just a little more cocoa the taste is even better" and before we know it, we're not relying on the recipe so much, but have adapted it and now has it's own flavour. I think musicality is the ability to do this.

As well as depending on technique, I believe musicality is strongly driven by personality and the life experiences we accumulate that shape our emotional being. Why do some people seem to play mechanically while demonstrating outstanding technical ability? I think it's because of what they have to draw upon AS A PERSON. Some people are just not as 'in touch' with emotions or feelings - even though they have them. For example, some people will cry in a movie, other's will wonder what on earth they're crying for. Some people are deep thinkers, others are not.

I'll liken it to a well.
Musicality is the well,
technique/skills is the bucket
being lowered by the teacher,
and the water it's drawing up, are our emotional triggers.
The giving of water to the thirsty person waiting up the top is the performance. How much that person's thirst is quenced depends on ALL elements - how stable is the well, how big is the bucket, how steady is the teachers hands and how deep does the water run.

I could go on a lot more, but all I really wanted to add was that I believe personality and life experience contributes greatly to one's musicality.

Oh and the icing on the top of the cake? Not only is icing the last thing to go on a cake but is often considered the best bit. For me, the icing on the cake would have to be the personal satisfaction and fulfillment I get from playing a beautiful piece of music.

The next issue: can it be taught? Musicality is certainly learned, but not necessarily in a piano lesson with a piano teacher taking the sole credit. The teacher can hand us the recipe, can help us gather the ingredients and can even suggest ways in which to put it all together, but then it comes down to us how we make the cake. Sometimes it's a flop, sometimes it's a phenomenal masterpiece - and I believe this also has a lot to do with mood and hormones and biorhythms. I've literally seen this evidence through my art work. I have pictures where the 'mood' has overtaken me and they're quite impressive. I have other pictures where I've just 'thought' I wanted to draw, and they're like they've been done by a completely different person - one who's really bad at drawing! My musical performances can be like that too.

Musicality is complex because it's an expression of our complex - or not so complex selves.

My thoughts tonight on the matter. (Hee hee, maybe tomorow my mood may change and I'll think differently)
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu Aug 03, 2006 5:45 pm

Hi Mins,

My wife always used to say "You play like who you are."

Bill.

P.S. Great to have you back!!
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Postby Glissando88keys » Sat Aug 26, 2006 8:52 pm

Stretto wrote:
Dr. Bill Leland wrote:Unfortunately most teachers don't really know how to teach technique. You've got to know some rudimentary anatomy, for one thing . . .

So, what are some references? Any references for artistic, non-science minded people that make it easy to read and understand? Also, are what are some references in regards to how anatomy relates to the specifics of playing the piano?

I went to my local library, recently, where I just happened to find an old copy of, PIANO TECHNIQUE: Tone, Touch Phrasing and Dynamics, a book on basic technique for all piano students. It contains suggestions and examples for developing varied techniques and a methodology for practicing based on a tradition passed down from the great piano teachers, past and present. I recommend this book for its uncomplicated, traditional and common sense approach.

Anyone familiar with this book?
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