Linking Music with Other Learning Areas

Originally posted on Learning Strategies for Musical Success:

What’s in greatest demand today is not analysis but synthesis—seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries, and being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole. —Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

Life is interdisciplinary and multisensory. We learn through all the senses, and we embrace the richness of opportunity and experience that is befitting our multi-intelligent capacity. The richer the brain diet stimulated by the senses, the more complex the brain becomes. Learning material presented with pictures and sound provides an emotional attachment that makes it easier to remember and more enjoyable to learn. The most effective memory-building techniques are based on the principle of association, and the strongest associations are emotional. This is multisensory learning.

Our senses evolved to work together…which means that we learn best if we stimulate several senses at once. —John Medina, Brain Rules

Subject compartmentalisation limits student…

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In Praise of Slow Practice

Originally posted on The Classical Piano and Music Education Blog:

There are so many different ways of practising the piano and whilst it’s relatively easy to identify those that are ineffective or plain incorrect, it’s much harder to establish fail-safe methods which will work every time on every piece. Many believe slow practice is of little use and can be distracting or even damaging, but if worked at regularly and accurately, it promotes a much more thorough approach. In fact, practising at very slow speeds employing total concentration can transform a pianist’s playing.

The first obstacle to successful slow practice is encouraging students and young pianists to view it as a valuable process. Many think it is a good idea in theory, but when it comes to practice time, it’s far easier (and more pleasant too) to play as usual; up to speed with the usual hesitations or errors. It takes vast amounts of discipline to play at a fraction of the speed, which is  no easy feat, but…

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A few helpful tips to improve your piano fingering

Originally posted on The Classical Piano and Music Education Blog:

Image from 'So you want to play the Piano?

Fingering is a crucial element in piano playing and surprisingly it’s often overlooked even at advanced levels. Many piano students have never adhered to any at all. Fingering is necessary because it helps a pianist remember which one of their four fingers or thumb (in each hand) is required to play a particular note or notes.  It is a really useful skill to cultivate as without it piano playing will become haphazard and uneven. It’s difficult to achieve any kind of consistency or fluency without sticking to the same finger patterns in a piano piece.

Some pieces will have all the fingering written in and others will need it annotated on the music or score. A good teacher will write all the necessary fingerings on the music so when you practice you will know exactly which finger goes where. This is vital for smooth fluent playing.  Initially, your piano books will show you how the fingers are…

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Analysis of Chopin’s Ballade in G minor

Originally posted on Memorising Music:

This year, I’ve finally decided to learn Chopin’s mighty first ballade in G minor. I played his (slightly easier) third ballade in A-flat major a few years ago, and have wanted to take on this iconic beast for quite some time, though have been advised against learning such a well known piece for examinations. But now my LTCL diploma is safely out of the way, and the FTCL feels a long, long way away (if ever…), the time has finally come to tackle the first ballade. Entirely co-incidentally, Alan Rusbridger – editor of the Guardian and amateur pianist – recently published a book about learning the same piece, which of course I devoured with great gusto!

So, aside from the enormous technical challenges of the ballade (of which there are a great many!), what are the memorising issues?

Previously associated only with poetry and song, the term ballade was first applied…

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Should parents insist on regular music practice?

Originally posted on Learning Strategies for Musical Success:

Should parents insist on regular music practice? On the one hand, parental pressure can destroy a child’s sense of motivation: if the child takes the initiative, it is best not to interfere. On the other hand, commitment is fundamental to character. Commitment perseveres through low times and high times and helps individuals overcome difficulties. Children only can learn about commitment by being committed. As children grow, they learn about responsibilities, such as the requirement to complete school homework and the expectation to assist with household chores. Just as parents and teachers sometimes must encourage children with these obligations, so it is with music.

The expectation of a commitment underpins the regard attributed to an activity. If there are household expectations in some areas, but not regarding music practice, it could imply to the child that music learning is not that important. Children always will be tempted to neglect their practice…

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Are Pianists the Super-Athletes of the World?

Originally posted on Learning Strategies for Musical Success:

Physiologist Homer Smith cites skilled piano playing as one of the pinnacles of human achievement because of the “demanding muscle coordination of the fingers, which require a precise execution of fast and complex physical movements”. This remarkable human ability provides an insight into the power of the brain. Consider Frédéric Chopin’s popular but challenging Fantaisie-Impromptu. This work requires playing approximately nineteen notes per second. The performer must learn these notes to such an extent that conscious attention to them is virtually no longer necessary. This is the aim of any playing of music—to render the technical demand to an almost unconscious level. Daniel Levitin says, “Plain old memorization is what musicians do when they learn the muscle movements in order to play a particular piece”. Much of this repetitive practice routine is more or less an algorithmic task. There’s nothing particularly creative about learning the motor mechanics of a phrase…

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America’s Culturally Deficiency

Originally posted on coppellpianoshop:


One thought that haunts me from time to time is the horrible state of music arts in America. This view may surprise you. You may even find it based in unsound logic. Let me share some history with you as it pertains to America’s cultural development.

There are over 6,000 brands of pianos in America. Most of them are names of companies that stopped making pianos years ago.

In 1865, our country was populated with very uncivilized, uneducated and uncultured citizens who could only resolve their differences by killing each other. Texas seceded from the Union in 1861.

By 1900, 5% of the population lived in cities. 95% lived in the country, on farms.

We were not unquestionably considered to be a viable country (by European standards) until the 1930s when we built the Chrysler Building followed by the New York Empire State building. Prior to that we had not…

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