Just for Kids - Tips
ere is the whole collection of tips from the piano teacher. Take a look at all of them - chances are that you'll find one (or more!) here that will help you and make your lessons easier and more fun. You'll get to be a better pianist, too! We'll be adding more tips every so often, so you'll want to check for the new ones.
Speed up that slow-poke hand!
If you're a right handed person, the left hand
often lags behind.
Time for practice? Make it count!
Have you noticed lately just how much practise your
teacher is setting? And have you also noticed that by the time you practise
everything you need to THIS week, the pieces you have learned a month or two
ago are practically forgotten? What about scales and arpeggios and all that
other technical work—when are you supposed to practise that? Here’s a
schedule you can follow. It’s based on a thirty minute practise session.
Try it this month and see how you go!
Jazz it up!
Have you ever heard jazz musicians playing together? Do you know that, for most of what they play, they make it up right on the spot! This means that, every time they play something, it’s always different. They sound pretty good together, but how do they know WHAT to play?
They follow a lead sheet. What’s that? It’s like
a map. Gives them directions on where to go, but it’s up to them how they
get there. This is called improvising, and it’s heaps of fun to learn.
So easy you can do it with your eyes closed!
How do you memorise a piece of music? A little at
a time. First, divide your piece into it’s form. Example, if it’s in
binary, you'll have theme A and theme B. If it’s ternary, ABA, Rondo form
AbAcA. Ask your teacher for help if you need to. Pretend that each theme is
a piece all in itself. First you’re going to learn theme A. Once you have
memorised theme A, work on theme B, and so on.
A picture is worth a thousand words (or notes)!
Do you ever get a piece of music written by some dead guy you’ve kind of heard about, but don’t really know anything about. Does it matter? Do we have to know anything about the composer to play his music? You could probably get away with not knowing anything. But you know what—it’s so much more interesting practising his music if you know what he looks like, when he lived, what sort of clothes he wore, what expression he may have had on his face when playing a particular section of music. So what can you do about it? Say you’ve been given a piece by Henry Purcell. Ask Mum or Dad if you can go on the internet. Find a search engine, like Google or Yahoo, change the setting to ‘images’ and type in his name: Henry Purcell (for example). You’ll probably get a selection of pictures to look at. Download them if you like. Print them out even. Then, look really closely at his face. What colour eyes do you think he had? Is he wearing a wig, or is that his real hair? Do you think he looks happy? Do you think he looks angry? Why do you think he looks that way? Do you think you would have been scared of him, or do you think he would be someone you would have liked to have met? Now that you know what he looks like, go back to your search engine, change it back to ’web’ type in his name together with history. Now you’ll have plenty to read about him. Just find simple things, like, what country did he live in? When was he born? If he was still alive today, how old would he be? Was he married? Did he have kids? How old was he when he died? Was he rich, or poor? Of course, there were female composers too. Look up Clara Schumann. She was a great composer. Perhaps you could ask your teacher to learn one of her works.
Would you like that Beethoven with a side of Chopin?
Have you ever been asked to play the piano for someone and are completely stumped to think of what, even though you’ve been going to lessons for over a year now? You need to make a ‘Repertoire List’. Go through all your piano books and write down the pieces you really like to play, even if it’s really simple stuff. You can make simple pieces much more interesting by repeating them either an octave lower or higher, picking out an ending phrase and using this as an introduction. Now they’re good enough to play for people. Keep your list somewhere handy so you can add to it. And remember to play those pieces on your repertoire list often! As you learn new pieces you like, you can add them to your list, too. Think of your list as a menu in a really expensive restaurant. Next time someone asks you to play, you can even give them a choice on what they’d like to hear, just as they would get a choice of what they would like to eat!
Psst! Don't tell your piano teacher we said this!
Music is great, isn’t it? But learning the piano can be hard work. You want to do it, of course, but sometimes … (sigh) ... you need a break. I know how you feel! Have you ever thought of teaching yourself another instrument? A really easy instrument you can play just for fun—no having to practise scales, no having to learn hard classical music that makes your brain tired sometimes. Ask Mum or Dad if they would buy you a recorder, an ocarina, a tin whistle, a xylophone/glockenspiel or a second hand guitar next time they’re looking at buying you a gift. Better still, save your pocket money to buy one of these cheap, easy instruments yourself. Most of these instruments come with fingering charts, and are easy enough to play right from the beginning. The guitar is a little harder, but if you buy a chord book and persevere with developing calluses (ouch!), you can accompany yourself singing. Sometimes a break from all our serious hard work is refreshing. And then we can get back to the ‘real’ stuff with new enthusiasm!
Start practice by cutting the cards!
Sometimes it’s hard to play pieces without the help
of our teacher because those notes are just so hard to read! No one could
blame you for just giving up and playing basketball or watching TV instead.
Except your teacher. Oh yeah. Your teacher will want to know how your
practise went. So turn off that TV, put down that ball, and head back to
the piano. But forget about the piece you’re supposed to be practising.
That’s right. Don’t worry about it just yet. Instead, you’re going to
make up your own flash cards. You’ll need some cardboard, some pens, some
scissors (check with Mum or Dad first) and a ruler. Ready?
Open wide and sing ahh!
Here’s a game you can play to help you develop a good ‘ear’ for sounds. Sing a note to yourself. Just one long one. Then, try and match that note with one on the piano. Hint: Keep around the middle C section, three notes below and about six or seven notes above—that’s where the human voice is most comfortable singing. Keep pressing the piano keys until you get one that sounds just like your voice. When you get good with finding one note, try two notes in a row, then three, then a complete phrase you make up yourself. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to work out melodies just by hearing them!
Make the music yours!
Hey kids! Do you roll your eyes and think, “what century does my teacher think we’re in?” every time you’re assigned a new piece for the piano? Are you silently bored with what you have to learn, but don’t have any idea what to do about it? Try this. For the next two weeks, listen to the radio every night—of course, make sure it’s okay with Mom or Dad first. You can choose the channel. But you know what would be even better? Pick a different channel every night! Listen to it for about an hour. If a song comes on that you REALLY like, write down the name of it, and make sure you also write down who wrote it, or sang it. The next night, you can even phone the station and request that song again, just to make sure you really do like it. When you have a list of at least five songs, bring the list to your teacher, and when you have the chance, ask politely if it’s possible that you could learn one of them. Make sure you know which one you want to learn first, just in case you’re asked. It would be even better if you already have the sheet music! Maybe your parents could buy it for you if you do extra chores around the house—or cook Mom a breakfast for her to have in bed!
Pull out the Props for Proper Piano Practice!
Your teacher has said again, you have to do more practise. Well, you
already play all your scales, arpeggios and assigned pieces once through every day, what
more could she possibly want? How bout five times through each day?! Yep. That might
satisfy your teacher. Heres how to do it so that you dont lose count. First,
you need to grab some props. Five props to be exact. Its more interesting if
theyre different colours. What to use
how about plastic pegs, or game
counters/tokens, or those coloured plastic paper clips? You can even use coloured pencils
or pens. Now, were going to put these coloured props in order. Least
favourite colour, to most favourite. If youre using pegs or paper clips, attach
these to the top of your music page. Make sure theyre all together on one side of
the page. If youre using something else, lay these on top of one side of the piano.
Okay. Were set. Each time you play the piece, you move one of your coloured objects
to the opposite side of the page, or piano. Keep doing this until each prop is on the
opposite side. Then, do the same with your next piece. You can do this for scales too!
Divide and Conquer!
Learning a new piece of music can be a long and tough project. If you try to do it all at once, you'll go crazy - and frustrated with yourself! But, there is a better way. It's what we call the "divide and conquer" approach to any truly big job. First, realize that trying to do too much, too fast (for example, learning the work in an hour) is sure to lead to failure and disappointment in yourself. For that reason, any big job needs to be divided into a set of easy-to-reach, smaller goals that can be done in any given day or week. So, break learning the work down into a set of small steps and goals that you can get to in a day's practice. If you need help to figure out how to divide learning a piece of music this way, ask your teacher. She'll probably be happy to help! Make sure that you work each and every day in practice accomplishing each of these smaller goals one-by-one-by-one. Reaching each of these goals puts you one step closer to the overall goal, and doesn't make you feel bad the way setting an unrealistic goal does. Allow a little more time to get where you're going than you think will be needed, so when things go wrong, you won't feel pressed. Finally, plan on a little extra time near the end for "cleanup" (putting sections together, developing a feel for the MUSIC in the work, etc.). Six, pat yourself on the back - you're done!! If you do it this way, you'll get the work learned right, have fun, and feel good about it at the end!
I made this on: 1/5/97
Newest stuff added: 04/06/12