Thanks to some amazing colleagues for letting me share this list with you!
1. Recitals provide a tangible goal to work towards. In having a set date and a pre-planned performance selection, your child learns how to manage their practice time and what it feels like to polish and perfect a piece.
2. Recitals provide an opportunity to feel successful. Learning the piano requires many, many hours of solo practice. Performing gives your child the recognition they deserve for their hard-work.
3. Recitals provide an opportunity for you to show your child that you value their involvement in music. Setting aside time in your busy life to attend a recital supports your children and their peers and shows your child that your family values music.
4. Recitals provide a chance for your children (and you!) to reflect upon where they’ve “come from” when watching beginning students. Progress at the piano can sometimes feel slow, but watching younger students perform reminds your children of the gains they have made and motivates them to continue to progress.
5. Recitals provide a chance for your children (and you!) to see “where they’ll go” when watching more advanced students. There are few things more motivating to a piano student than watching their peers perform. They get to hear pieces that they will enjoy playing in the future, see more advanced technique first-hand and experience the pride that comes from becoming proficient at the piano.
6. Recitals provide a chance for your extended family to be involved in your child’s piano education. Athletes get all the glory… everyone comes to watch soccer games but no one really heads over to watch a piano practice session! Involving grandparents and aunties and uncles in the recital audience gives your child an opportunity to share their hard work with the ones they love.
7. Recitals provide a chance for your child to experience nervousness… and to realize that those feelings are okay. We like to protect our children from feeling uncomfortable, but in “real life” these feelings are part-and-parcel of being human. Early experiences with successfully conquering nerves gives children confidence.
8. Recitals give you the opportunity to provide genuine and heart-felt praise. Bring on the photos and videos and big hugs and flushed-face smiles. Clap enthusiastically. Let your child know just how much you recognize their efforts and watch their commitment to piano lessons soar.
9. Recitals provide a chance for your child to practice public speaking and to gain confidence in front of a group; two skills that will serve your child well in many other areas of his or her life. Speaking and performing in a safe environment means that your child gains important experience in front of a crowd. The earlier these experiences happen, the easier it becomes for your child as they enter adolescence and adulthood.
10. Recitals provide an opportunity for your child to get to know his or her peers who are also taking lessons. Making these connections helps to build community within a studio and helps your child to feel as though he or she belongs which results in increased interest in lessons.
11. Recitals give your children the chance to hear live music. Young children rarely attend a lot of live concerts… and piano recitals are a wonderful place for your child to hear a wide variety of music. Nothing can replace the “live music experience” and when your child is an active participant in the event it’s even more rewarding!
12. Recitals provide an opportunity for you to sit back and marvel at the pride-inducing sight of your own child making beautiful music! Piano practice is often done amongst a busy household with siblings, pets, vacuums, dishwashers and doorbells. It’s rare that you have the opportunity to focus only on your child and the music they are making.These moments matter.
What NOT to do
What do you do when you make a mistake? I look forward to hearing your comments!
An important part of the first week of piano lessons is choosing a practise time. Practising is most effective if it is done at the same time every day and becomes a habit (just like brushing your teeth!).
While the perfect time is different for everyone, here are some suggestions to get you thinking:
1. In the morning. While many of you are probably thinking "no way!", this has always been my best practising time. When I was growing up, I'd practise while my Mom was braiding my sister's hair and vice versa. Of course as I got older and more advanced, this became a longer session, but these initial short am practises were what created the habit.
If you practise in the morning, there are fewer distractions and reasons that you might NOT practise!
So try it! Set that alarm 15 minutes earlier and have a piano pyjama party!
2. Before dinner. This was another good one for me growing up. While my Mom cooked (and listened!) from the kitchen, I'd run through my pieces. She's shout out compliments a few times as I went along. For kids who are past the beginner stage and wanting to practise on their own, this can give them a sense of independence, yet enough involvement (ie positive feedback) to keep it exciting. Plus, the routine of piano, then dinner creates a good habit.
3. Before bed. This is not a very effective time for me, unless I'm composing or doing something creative, but it can be a very relaxing way to end your day! For kids practising at this time, you could always let them "stay up late" to practise just a little bit more!
I hope this gets you thinking!
What routine works best for you? I'd love to hear your comments below.
For reading on some very interesting (and often extreme) habits, check out the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This was one of my favourite summer reads.
As a parent (or friend/partner of a student!) you have two very important jobs.
1. Make sure a practise routine is set in place and followed.
Try for a consistent time Monday to Friday and one fun practise on the weekend! This gives you a day off as well. It might be a struggle at first to get used to the routine, but not only will this help with piano, but with a general outlook for tackling difficult projects in life!
2. Stay positive.
There are many ways to say "good job". Make sure to give tons of positive feedback about practise. Be sure to go around any negative comments (ie instead of "that's not C!", try using a question or a hint "remember where critter lives/remember what group of black keys the C is before?"). Be sure your child or significant other knows how much you love their music!
It's important to remember what the best part of our piano practise is. Think about the following questions and I look forward to seeing all your answers posted below! See mine after the questions.
1. What do you love most about the piano?
2. What is your favourite song to play? Why?
3. What is difficult about the piano?
4. Who do you enjoy performing for the most?
1. I love being able to express all of my feelings through music, especially on the piano because it was my first instrument and the one that I am most natural on.
2. Even though it is played often, I love Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata because it is so soothing. I think I have been playing it for over 10 years now, and I still love it!
3. The piano requires a lot of repetition to train your fingers to "think" independently. This means playing the same passages over and over and over again.
4. I love playing for my family! Even if by the time they hear the performance they have heard the piece hundreds of times, they are still my most loyal fans! Also my friend Katie from our group KeyNote Duo gives me the best compliments, for example she loves my ritardandos.
We all lead busy lives and it can be hard to find time to practise or to help the kids with it. It is important, however, to choose a time that will work consistently into your home schedule to help practising go as smoothly as possible.
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so why don't we all take until Easter to see what we can do?! I'm on day two of my new practising schedule and so far so good!
Here are some tips to get you started:
Move your piano to a key location in your home.
Practising can be a solitary activity, so get other family members involved, by letting them hear your beautiful music! Parents, never miss the opportunity to compliment your child's music and get them to play it again! Ex: "Johnny, I LOVE the way you played Mister Bluebird today, could you play it for me one more time?"
Break up practising into small sections.
My three hours of practising seems daunting, but I break it up into a morning session and an evening session. The morning is great for scales and warmups and the evening is the optimal time for pieces and memorization, give it a try!
Have a fun practise day.
Though I love Beethoven and Bach I sometimes love to play some Adele and sing along (some of my other fav's include John Denver, the Beatles and Billy Joel for the older crowd!:) ) Don't resist this! Have a day where you/your child can play old favourites or something popular.
Stay tuned for some more ideas next week. I'd love to hear how you plan to schedule and improve practising this week!
Angela Casagrande will be having a concert at the end of February. Angela’s concerts are always very entertaining, both musically and because of the background info that she gives between pieces. The concert is taking place on Friday Feb. 28, 2014, at 7:30 pm, at St. Paul’s Eastern United Church, which is located at 473 Cumberland St. (the corner of Daly and Cumberland). Tickets will be $20, or $15 for students and seniors. Email if you’d like info and I can put you in touch with her about tickets! This week and next week I will feature Angela on the blog to give us some tips on practising and some information on the oboe...watch out, I might quiz you on this at your next lesson!:)
When did you start playing the oboe and what made you choose it as your instrument?
I'm not sure if I should admit this, as it really dates me, but I started playing the oboe in 1972. That would be when I was thirteen. That's a long time ago now! At that time, there were no band programmes available through the school until the high school level, so even though I wanted to learn the oboe, I had to wait until I got into high school so I could get one from the school.
I'm honestly not sure if there were musical instrument rentals available at that time. There may well have been, but my neither my family nor I knew of anywhere we could get an oboe. Certainly now I have lots of students who start playing outside of their school music programme. They just rent an oboe and get some lessons and away they go.
I often wish I had started earlier, but I did have the benefit of playing other things before tackling the oboe, and I think this early musical education really helped me. I started on the recorder when I was in grade 4. We could take recorder lessons at school during the lunch hour, but there was a recorder group on Saturday mornings that I was able to join, and it's what really got me interested in playing in ensembles. I thought the sound of a group of people playing in harmony together was so beautiful, it made me want to continue playing and also to learn other instruments. I ended up playing the violin and viola as well (though I can't say I was really very good at them!).
I became interested in the oboe because, when I was in about grade 6 or so, I read a book in which a boy played the oboe. The oboe was described as being very difficult to master, and I was immediately intrigued. I thought, "Wow, I have to find out more about this instrument! If it's that hard, no one else will want to play it, and I'll be the only one in the world!" A short time later, I heard the sound of the oboe, and that sold me on it. I loved the sound so much, I just had to learn it, even if it was going to really hard! Interestingly, many of my students report taking the oboe for the same reasons. They want to play something that's a little different and unusual, and they really like the sound.
How much practising do you do as a professional musician? What practising tips would you give to music students?
This is a good question. It's also a little hard to answer. I think for me, three hours a day is an ideal amount to stay in good shape. I think the amount of practice time one needs is governed by so many things. In my case, I have some hand problems that make it painful for me if I play too long in a day, so I have to be really careful about how I practice and how long. I think if I performed more, as those do who play in an orchestra full-time for example, the practice time needed would be much longer than my ideal of three hours. Unfortunately my practice time is also constricted by my teaching schedule. Some days I have so much work to do other than practicing that if I can practice for an hour or two I'm lucky. The amount of practice time I have goes up and down during the week depending on what I have to do. Obviously if I have a concert coming up, whether it's a solo recital like the one I'm doing at the end of this month, or a concert where I'm part of a larger ensemble, I have to be really strict about finding time every day to practice and make sure I'm on top of whatever it is I need to be learning.
As far as practice tips go, I'd say the first thing is to be disciplined and make sure you practice each day, even if it's just a little bit. You learn much better by repeating things in small chunks more frequently than by doing one long session every once in a while. Bear in mind that even if a piece seems insurmountable at first, just keep chipping away at it bit by bit every day, and it will begin to improve. Sometimes it seems to me as though I'll never learn a specific passage, but just by persevering, it gets better over time. It's almost like magic. And once you begin to improve, things fall into place more and more quickly. So the main thing is to keep at it.
Another thing to remember is to practice slowly, especially at first. You have to really listen to what you're doing so you know if every detail is correct -- is everything played evenly, are the inflections correct on every note, is every note in tune, is every finger working the way it needs to?
Nicole C Bowers