Category: Music Appreciation

Must I learn to read music to play piano?

Some new piano students ask me this when we first meet, “Do I really have to read music? I just want to play the piano.” My answer is, “yes and no”. It depends on what you want to learn and play. There are a lot of great musicians who never learn to read music and yet they play marvellously. And then there are a lot of other great musicians who learn to read music and they play spectacularly. The first group of musicians is usually in the jazz/blues/pop/world music genre. They play by ear, they understand music differently the way those who read music. They usually improvise and create music more freely. The second group of musicians is the classically trained ones. These musicians learnt to read since they were young. They went through all the strict and traditional training. They understand music deeply and through various means. It is not just the reading that they need to learn, but they also know the theory, form and structure behind those notes. All these help them listen and play better. So, if you want to just play pop music and never care to bother with the classical pieces, then “no” I say you probably don’t really need to read music at all, and find someone who can teach you just like that (not the strictly classical piano teachers because they probably don’t know what to do with you!). But, if you ever want to learn something more complicated like a prelude and fugue by Bach or a nocturne by Chopin, then “yes” you would want to learn how to read. I always compare music learning to language learning. It’s really quite similar. Did you learn to read English? I am sure you did because you are now reading my article :) Did you ever wonder, “can I learn to speak English without learning to read English?” It sounds absurd. But the truth is, I bet you learnt to speak before you actually read it – you would probably know more words in your speech way ahead of your reading. It’s the chicken and egg theory. For me, I love to read (I’m an absolute bookworm). So I love to read music as well. I devoured a lot of new music just by playing through them the first second I see them. It’s an amazing feeling to have the ability to be able to sight-read in no time. It’s a lot of fun. But at the same time I like how some jazz and blues musicians who can improvise like mad – that’s really amazing to watch and listen to as well. In fact, I started improvising (and composing) a few years ago. At first, I found it hard to play random things because I was so used to read everything from the score and play exactly that. I was a bit “confused” (a popular word commonly used by my students). I was feeling that I couldn’t make mistake or “ugly sound” like that as I improvised, “that’s embarrassing!”. But I got over it, that’s the only way to learn to play differently. And it got better and was a lot of fun since then. Now I learn to play some blues because it’s just fun to learn something new, and I get to teach students that. For me, it’s not about just strictly “how you must read!” or “it doesn’t matter whether you read or not”, it’s rather what benefits that student the most. After all, music is about enjoyment (not so much for professional musicians all the time! Just like anyone in their field doing it professionally). It’s about people expressing themselves and sharing it with others. Of course there are times it’s challenging in the process of learning – there are obstacles and hurdles, there are setbacks and disappointment. But most important of all, we make progress by making mistakes, getting over them and moving onward and forward. With the new students, I combine listening and reading. Learning by rote is important for any beginners. With listening, memorizing patterns by sight and sound, as well as remembering notes one or two at a time, students make progress very quickly. It’s important for students to gain confidence by being able to play something simply successfully at the beginning, that sense of enjoyment and satisfaction, knowing that they can actually play the piano and make music, is the motive that moves them forward and keep learning. I could go on and on about music learning and piano playing, but I shall stop here and continue with another post on how teachers can motivate students in a positive direction with very simple cues in their piano journey. Teresa Wong

[:en]How to Pronounce Italian /French /German Musical Terms [:zh]意大利/法國/德國音樂術語[:]

[:en]A student recently asked me about how to find resources on pronunciation of foreign musical terms, mainly Italian, French and German. So I found her a website that provides excellent resources on this matter. On the website you can find not only the audio clips for pronunciation of each term, but you can also see the explanation of each term in English. How cool is that?

You can see the links below:

Italian Musical Terms

French Musical Terms

German Musical Terms

From time to time I really wonder and truly appreciate the effort some individuals put to better other people’s lives because they care. And this is one great example of many. I hope I have been doing the same for you :)

TW[:zh]最近一位學生問我如何找到外國音樂術語發音的資源,主要是意大利語,法語和德語。我為她找到了一個網站,提供這方面的優秀資源。在網站上,您不僅可以找到每個音樂術語的發音片段,還可以看到每個術語的英文解釋。十分讃啊!

你可以看到下面的鏈接:

意大利音樂術語

法語音樂術語

德國音樂術語

有時候,我真的很欣賞一些人,他們無私的分享和努力的付出,改善了別人的生活。這是很多很好例子中的其中之一。我希望我也為你們做到了這點:)

黃頴姸[:]

[:en]Classical music: sacred or scary?[:]

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People have a general misconception about classical music. 

“It’s boring.”

“It’s for the elite.” (“high-class”).

“It’s old. Who wants to listen to that?”

“I don’t understand it.”

“I don’t play an instrument, so I don’t get it.”

Classical music is just another music genre, like jazz, hip hop, rock, pop, world. 

Of course, in the hearts of “classical people” – meaning the classical musicians and connoisseurs, classical music is “unique”, “pristine”, even “sacred”, like the untouchable.

I like to think there is something special with classical music of course, with my own background of years of classical music training and study. Even I like many kinds of music, classical music does have a special place in my heart, there’s no doubt about it. But I also like to share with people who are interested in learning and listening to it more, because there’s nothing “scary” or “boring” about classical music at all. In fact, once you get a hang of it, you would start to be able to appreciate it more and bathe and rejoice in the beauty of it, that I can assure you of.

Now, where do we start?

Let’s start from singing.

Who doesn’t like to sing? Who can’t appreciate a good singing voice, even one thinks they cannot sing?

I enjoy listening to vocal music, be it solo or choral. I am quite inclined to listening to choral music though -perhaps due to my training as a choral conductor – from a cappella to chorus with a full on orchestra. My favorite choral music would be gregorian chant and mass, then followed by some beautifully harmonised “modern”choral songs.

Now how do you listen to the music here?

  1. listen with your mind open – forget about what kind of music it is. Just listen and feel. And ask yourself, “do we like it? why?”
  2. find out more about the music – google it, who wrote it? who sang it? is there any story to the music/about the composer – there’s always some story, at least if there’s lyrics, you can appreciate the words.
  3. if you know how to play an instrument and understand some music theory, then you can find out some basic structural information about the piece. Or simply, listen to the ebbs and flows of the music. Or, if there’s more than one instrument, can you hear what’s there? How do the different instrumentation come together, and how do they interact with each other?

So here are some of my favorite, please enjoy:

First, some good old fashioned piano solo music, everyone’s favorite! : s famous nocturnes by Chopin:

Now, some choral music with piano accompaniment, some more harmonized, easy listening and “modern”:

And here is some unaccompanied (“a cappella”) mass, it’s for me very healing and almost spiritual experience listening to this kind of music:

If anyone wants me to talk about these genres, like the background and things like that, I am happy to write about them in the future. Just send me a message and let me know!

Much blessings in music,

Teresa x

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[:en]New Short Courses 2017[:zh]2017 新短期課程訓練[:]

[:en]We are introducing new short intensive courses this year:

Sight reading
Ear training
Song writing
*Piano teacher training

Whole course duration: 10 classes
Format: group courses, 3-6 people
Original Fee: $3600.
New student special price: $3400.
*Piano teacher training ($6000 whole course 10 weeks)
**sight reading + ear training ($4600 whole course, special: $4400)

Schedule

*1030-1145am piano teacher training level I (Teresa Wong)
*12-1245pm fundamental sight reading training (Teresa Wong)
*1-145pm fundamental ear training (Teresa Wong)
*715-830pm sight reading + ear training (Teresa Wong)

Saturday
4-445pm fundamental sight reading training (Teresa Wong)
445-530pm fundamental ear training (Teresa Wong)

Wednesday:
4-450pm sight reading for kids (Carol Yip)
5-550pm ear training for kids (Carol Yip)
6-650pm church pianist training (Carol Yip)

Contact us today at twsomusic@gmail.com for registration and questions!

[:zh]視譜訓練

音樂聆聽訓練

歌曲寫作

*鋼琴老師訓練

*1030-1145am 鋼琴老師訓練 (Level I) (Teresa Wong)
*12-1245pm 基本視譜訓練 (Teresa Wong)
*1-145pm 基本音樂聆聽訓練 (Teresa Wong)
*715-830pm 基本視譜 + 音樂聆聽訓練 (Teresa Wong)

Saturday
4-445pm 基本視譜訓練 (Teresa Wong)
445-530pm 基本音樂聆聽訓練 (Teresa Wong)

Wednesday:
4-450pm 兒童視譜訓練 (Carol Yip)
5-550pm 兒童音樂聆聽訓練 (Carol Yip)
6-650pm 教會琴師訓練 (Carol Yip)

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[:en]The Desire to Succeed [:]

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I hope you all had a good holiday. 

During my holiday, I did a lot of reading and thinking (besides resting and exercising!). I found a lot of focus and clarity when I could do these two things with clear head (thanks to my regular meditation practice). 

One thing I want to talk about today is the desire to excel, and of course here I would apply that to piano playing and teaching.

Many say that passion is the key to success. I agree with passion – love for the thing we do – certainly helps a lot in motivating us to keep doing what we are doing. But only passion is not enough, as I will explain below. 

During my many years as a pianist and teacher and mentor, I have met and taught students from all walks of life, whether they be amateur or professional musicians. When I first heard someone telling me that they want to “study abroad”, “go to Germany/Vienna/France”, “take a diploma exam”, “become a great piano teacher”, I warm heartedly encouraged them and gave them a lot of advice on how to proceed with that goal. They all looked very enthusiastic and genuinely interested in pursuing that goal they held dearly on to. However, after a few months/a year, there were no signs of no follow-up actions and the enthusiasm seemed to gradually fade away. 

I thought about how I made things happen for myself in terms of piano performance or teaching career or building a business. Certainly there was a lot of passion involved. It’s the passion that prompted me to start with everything I did. I did more than having a passion. There was also the desire to succeed. And then I looked at how others succeeded in what they pursued, it’s the exact same way as I did only in different arenas. 

So what is the desire to succeed? 

There are two keywords in this question: “desire” and “succeed”. 

Let’s start with the word “desire”. Desire is a very strong sentiment and commitment to the passion one has, whether it be playing the piano well, maintaining a harmonious relationship, making a decent living, or simply, having a nice meal at a fine restaurant. 

When you have a very strong desire in anything you have in mind, you will figure out a way to achieve it, no matter how hard it is. 

Now what would you do to fulfill that desire? There are steps you would make to “succeed”, which is the second keyword of our question. 

Let’s say you want to have a nice meal at a fine restaurant, the procedure would be firstly you research about which restaurant you want to go. Then you have to make a reservation. You might even have to book very early in advance if the restaurant is very popular. You would do all that to have the nice meal you so strongly desire to have, right? And you also make sure you have enough money to pay for that meal, to make that goal complete smoothly. You might even buy a new dress/suit and bring someone you really fancy to make this fine dining experience more wonderful. Then you would feel you have “succeeded”. 

It’s the same for piano playing. In order to have some pleasant outcome out of the time and effort we are going to spend in our lessons and our practice, we must have the desire to succeed before we decide we want to pick up our playing/practice/teaching again. You must have a very strong desire to make that happen for yourself but it for anyone else. You must feel very strongly that is absolutely something you are willing to spend time/effort/money/training in for a considerably sustained period of time. Otherwise all your time/effort/money/training are wasted for nothing. 

So what exactly is the definition of having succeeded in fulfilling that desire and passion? That’s up to you. It might be learning to play one of your favorite pieces really well in three months, or attaining a piano diploma in a year, or becoming a great piano teacher in two years. The point is to make your goal as specific as possible. The time frame is for reference only. Of course it’s important to meet that as much as possible and do not create an impossible goal for yourself in a short time, that only adds to your detriment of being actually able to achieving it. And even more important is that you stick to that goal no matter how hard and challenging you find it is. If you truly have the desire to succeed, you will find help and adjust how you do it along the way. 

You must commit to what you have started. That differentiates those who can achieve what they are passionate about and those who cannot and blame others for their failure. 

People think talent/innate ability is the key. That’s only part of the picture. Most often than not those who succeed in what they do have put tremendous hard work with absolute perseverance constantly. It’s not that they don’t struggle or even at times fail, but they just bite their tongues and keep on moving forward. 

I hope you all have a great start to the new year and find what you desire to succeed in in your brand new journey ahead. 

Teresa Wong

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