I get a lot of enquiries about playing by memory. Here are a few useful tips:
1. Mark out the sections and phrases
It’s important to know where a section / a phrase starts and ends – this practice is not only important for memorisation but also in practice and knowing the music more deeply and securely
2. Repeat in small doses
It’s a very useful tool to memorise a piece in small doses first especially if you are new to the practice. Start with one phrase and then two, gradually working up to a whole section. Then work on two sections and more eventually leading up to the whole movement/piece.
Repeat each phrase 5-10 times. Then two phrases 5-10 times. Then three phrases 5-10 times and so on.
It’s also great to try starting in the middle of a piece – a lot of times when performers have a slip of memory it’s never at the beginning of a piece or not even the beginning of a section/phrase. I encourage my students to start playing /memorising in the middle of the music to see if they can start and continue from there – I call them “safety stops”. It’s like taking a train: it starts and ends at big terminals, but it also travels through and pauses by many small stations / stops in between the whole journey to pick up and drop off passengers. So throughout the whole music journey (the music piece you are playing and memorising), you also need some musical stops to know where you are at currently. It helps you keep track of where you have been, where you are at, and where you are going, until the end.
For me I even memorised from the end back to the beginning just to test my memory of the piece. Most important of all, try to be creative about your memorisation process and think/practice outside of the box – remember, there is no one way to do it right for you, and often, those “weird” ways of doing one thing are THE ways to get you closer and faster towards your goal!
Until next time,
We are now introducing new online courses and taking enrolment until the spaces are all filled.
Here are the courses and short description:
Course 1. How to prepare your students for diploma exams successfully
General criteria of exam requirement and repertoire choice
How to choose pieces for your students
Examples of repertoire choice and general background of genre/pieces
Viva voce questions and preparation
More on viva voce and programme notes
Student project presentation: examples of repertoire choices and viva voce questions
(Class 4/5 are subject to change if most of the teacher students are more inclined to prepare students for Trinity exams instead of ABRSM exams)
Course 2. How to improve your students’ technique
Piano playing and body utilization
Concept of Body weight and weight transfer
Application of body weight and weight transfer
Relation of body weight and weight transfer to arm/hand/finger movement
More elaboration on class 2 concepts
More on weight training and piano technique
Application and examples of different techniques
Student Project presentation: application of techniques with chosen music examples
Course 3. How to analyze and interpret advanced repertoire
General background of musical periods
General development of piano/keyboard instruments
Main genres and their characteristics of keyboard repertoire (Baroque and Classical)
Music examples: form, structure and analysis
Main genres and their characteristics of keyboard repertoire (Classical and Romantic)
Music examples: form, structure and analysis
More on genres and examples of keyboard repertoire
More on background and analysis of keyboard repertoire
Performance practice of each musical period in relation to the development and repertoire of the keyboard instrument
How to analyze and prepare a piece for performance and exam
Student Project presentation: application of knowledge learnt in the course with chosen piece of your own
Total Course time
Each class duration
1 hour in total: 45 minutes’ lecture + 15 minutes’ Q & A session
Total fee per course
Original course fee: $3000
Special course fee for early bird enrolment: $2500
Deadline for early bird enrolment: September 8, 2017
Deadline for all enrolment: September 20, 2017
Commencement of courses (Class 1):
Course 1: September 22 Friday 11am
Course 2: September 21 Thursday 10am
Course 3: September 21 Thursday 11am
Note: We might have more course times if there are more students than open spaces in any of the courses and if students are unavailable at the schedule given above. Contact us directly to request more schedule details.
Pay via PayPal or bank transfer to our HSBC account. (Details will be given after your enrolment – 100% confirmation of your enrolment will be completed after we have received your payment)
We are also organizing a new course to train new teachers to teach Miss Wong’s piano technique method, so that you can train your students to become a more accomplished performer with avid interest in learning music and playing the piano with confidence, control and dexterity! Stay tuned for this course.
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I am going to teach you how to do a splendid scales in the upcoming video. Are you ready?
I know I have written something rather harsh recently, and some readers might feel offended (“look at what she wrote! So negative and mean!”). To that, I am not apologizing at all. I write what I think and I know those who have been reading my blog in the last few years know that; I know they are here to learn and want to become better; and they also know I am not here to kiss anyone’s bottom.
So today, I want to talk about why I wrote that and point out there are reasons why people complain why things don’t work out the way they want them to be. And therefore if you want to learn something new and completely life transforming today, here’s your chance.
I want to bring you – teachers and students and parents – whatever your role is – to your attention why you haven’t gotten what you’ve always wanted, be it the right students /teachers/results.
The reason is : you haven’t tried hard enough.
“What? That’s it? Don’t you know how hard I have tried all these years with time, effort and money? Are you kidding me?”
One thing you have never tried enough is to change your mindset drastically and stick with it.
What do I mean?
You think, whenever you can’t teach well, it is because you don’t have the right student or right tool or right education or right area, or even worse, you don’t believe you can do it.
You think, whenever you can’t play well, it is because you don’t have the right teacher or right piano or right environment or right schedule or right time to have lessons/practice or even start learning, or even worse, you think you have no talent and you don’t believe you can ever play better even you try.
But really, have you tried? Have you gone 100% all the way to believe you can and do something about your teacher/student/lesson/practice situation? If not, for sure you would never get what you want.
Also, you have to really suck it up even when you feel down or frustrated or depressed and upset or painful or lazy or whatever negative emotions that come to you. Don’t let them stop you and derail you from where you want to reach. If you do, success would never happen to you as well. And please keep sulking and get upset with what I just tell you too so you can stop working towards what you want to reach.
And oh, those people who tell you you can’t make it or can’t change or laugh at what you are trying to do? If you want to succeed, stop listening to them. But hey, if you want to take a longer route to success and complain about why they say what to sabotage you, then listen to them so that you can fail at getting what you want.
You need to believe that you can make it happen, whatever it is. The future is in your hands.
So, whatever it is you want to change, YOU are the one who is responsible.
It’s not your teacher or your student or your parent or your child’s teacher.
You can change all that (except who your parents/children are).
If you think your (child’s) teacher is not the right teacher for you, find another teacher.
If you think your student is not the right student for you, finds other student.
I do encourage you to talk with your teacher/student about the issues you might have if you feel it’s about communication. Being sincere and open about the problems is a key step to better teaching and learning.
If you think you don’t know how to teach better, that’s okay, just find a way to learn to be better. Go take a course or even just read and listen more online. Talk with other teachers and ask those who know how and where to get the resources. Learn from better teachers. That’s how we learn. Great teachers are always learning. That’s how they become good and better.
Don’t feel like you are stuck when you can’t solve your teaching situation or playing problem or practice issue. There is always another way to do it.
The point is, have you tried hard enough to change it?
You are the only one who can make it happen for you.
So if you want to succeed, you have to change your mindset and do things differently from now on. And trust yourself, you have the power and ability to do this, because you really can.
Trust. Focus. Believe. And keep moving forward, one small step at a time.
I am going to be as candid as I can ever be in this post, and from now onwards.
It’s not that I wasn’t being truthful or honest before. I was trying to be “kind” and “nice”.
There’s nothing wrong with being kind and nice, but when I was being “too kind” and “too nice”, I found out students became lazy and started to rely on me, meaning they always looked at me for directions, instead of thinking for themselves how to do it.
Playing the piano and perfecting the skills required needs a lot of brainwork, and to that I mean A LOT.
It’s not for those who don’t like thinking and analysing to the deepest.
It is also not for someone who don’t want to move their bodies.
What does that mean? There has ben a stereotype that playing the piano is to “tame” the kids’ temper, like it’s some sort of circus moves. Actually, it sounds more like the teacher is the animal trainer and the students being… you know.
Only I hope your teacher doesn’t have a wipe to hold on to..
First, let me tell you what playing the piano is not:
It’s NOT just for GIRLS
It’s NOT to train boys to sit still
It’s NOT for ANYONE to sit still and NOT move their bodies
It’s NOT just a finger movement
Now, let me tell you what playing the piano is about:
IT IS an activity that requires MIND, BODY, EMOTION , and SPIRIT. (Yes, it is that kind of activity.)
It is an ACTIVE activity, like a SPORT.
It requires BRAIN WORK. – LOTS OF IT.
It requires BODY COORDINATION – hands, feet, eye, torso (upper and lower, even when you are sitting) and oh yeah, brain again, you guess it.
It requires FEELING – yes it does, because it’s ART, an EXPRESSION of EMOTION – otherwise go do maths or play video games. I can’t imagine anyone filling in forms and studying tests with PASSION, that would be weird.
It requires not only feeling for music, but also feeling for your own body, that’s the ultimate way to transform your technique forever. So it requires the player to be in touch with themselves.
It takes FOCUS, DEDICATION, DISCIPLINE, HARD WORK, RESILIENCE, STRUCTURE, SKILLS, TIME, and PATIENCE. – I think there’s more I am missing…oh maybe, PASSION?
It requires FAST RESPONSE. REALLY FAST – so if you like slow motion, go do tai chi in the park with old ladies and men, no offence.
It requires A LOT OF THINKING -it needs a lot of rationalization and analysis, and is therefore NOT for anyone who prefers spoon fed everything or everything shuffled down their throats – or did I mention this point already?
It is NOT cost effective.
It requires PRACTICE, ON YOUR OWN.
It requires REFLECTION, ON YOUR OWN.
IT REQUIRES THINKING, ON YOUR OWN – oh I think I am getting dementia or something, here I am repeating myself again.
So I hope I have told you what it takes to be really great at the piano. Of course, if you just want to be mediocre, keep telling yourself “it’s too hard”, “I don’t have time (for lessons and/practice)”, and “the teacher should tell me everything I need to know!”
Anything great in life requires hard work, resilience, time and patience, and A LOT OF THINKING.
Next post, I might start bashing on “teachers” who think they are teaching, but they are really not!
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.
I believe everyone likes music.
Everyone listens to some kind of music, whether it be pop music (western or local), R&B, rock, electronic, blues, folk, country, band, classical, world, jazz… Or you simply listen to some good music regardless of what genre the music is – the most important element in music is that you like it. That’s it. It is not other people’s choice but YOUR own choice.
The same should go for music learning, or more specifically here, piano playing. You should play the piano only when you want it. And then you would probably practice because you want to get better at the piano.
What is the first thing students usually say when they come in? (I am sure all of you piano teachers have this experience once in a while or too many a times.) They say, “I didn’t practice (much) last week.” or similar version of this line. Now, what is your response and what would you say to them? You might be like this, “no, no again!”, either say in silently inside or voice this out loud to your students. Trust me, I get that “frustration” sometimes, I understand that completely.
I also understand why students don’t practice (enough) sometimes. And it’s not because they are lazy – it can be but I usually give them the benefit of the doubt. I like to treat people innocent before “charged” guilty (ok, it’s not like that serious like a crime, but you get what I mean).
Depending on the situation would I ask them why. They would tell me there has been a lot of “homework/work/test/exam/activities/weddings/social functions/business trips/projects/meetings”. I get it, I really do. But I would also stress to them it is of utmost importance that they keep their regular practice sessions in albeit less frequent or shorter than desirable. Let’s say you want your students to practice 1 hour every day, would you think it’s plausible for the lifestyle they have? Would you rather set a more realistic goal for them to follow and actually keep up with, for example, 30 minutes for 4-5 days a week? Or 20 minutes for 3-4 days a week? Depending on the level and age and time of each student?
I usually negotiate with them, especially when they are adult students who have a very busy work life. I say, “ok, well, I understand that you are pretty busy, but let’s try this, try to log in 15 minutes for 3 days first, use the timer on your phone, set it to 15 minutes and just sit down and go with it. Let me know how that goes in our next lesson.” Usually they would do more that those 3 15-minute sessions if they really want to improve their playing.
Of course, there are times when a student really has no time whatsoever that week to do any practice at all. Then what do you as a teacher do? You just have to be patience sometimes. Sometimes when we push the students too hard on their learning and practice it might get an opposite effect that they might not even want to continue learning! We all want to progress, we all do, whether our role is teacher or parent or student. But there is a life we are making right here right now. I think being considerate – I use the word “compassion” – for the student we truly care for is important. There might a lesson that might not be as productive as we want it to be, and that’s ok. If the student turns around, looks back at his/her own progress and says “oh maybe I should work harder”, then wonderful, let’s do it. Certainly the teacher always has to be there to remind the student of his/her practice and encourage him/her to learn more/better. I believe it’s always two-way street (or even three in case with the parent for younger students): both the teacher and student put in effort and work together. Then the student’s learning will definitely blossom.
I find more than often though, it’s that instead of the students having not done any practice at all, it’s rather they are afraid they didn’t get the practice done as well as the teacher want them to have. So nowadays when I hear the line “sorry I didn’t practice much”, I just smile and gesture them sit down and tell them to start playing right away. “I shall be the judge of it.” Most of them do much better than they thought they would.
Giving students more precise pointers and specific directions as to how to make an effective and efficient practice session is also a great way to guide them to not be afraid of practice and get more done on their own. I shall write more about this which I find a lot of students and teachers are not too familiar with this concept.
You all have a blessed weekend of music teaching and learning,
how to practice a fugue?
1.play each voice separately.
e.g. if there are four voices,
Step 1. play only soprano voice
Step 2. play only alto voice
Step 3. play only tenor voice
Step 4. play only bass voice
2. Play two voices together
Step 5. play soprano and alto voices
Step 6. play tenor and bass voices
Step 7. play soprano and bass voices
Step 8. play alto and tenor voices
It’s very important to hear firstly each individual voice before practicing them together.
The concept is very simple:
Imagine a fugue is played by a string ensemble, so it would be first violin + second violin + viola + cello. Do they practice together without practicing on their own? No! Only now YOU the pianist has to play every single line together yourself. Therefore, if you really want to know the voices well, you must practice listening and playing each of them separately. In the course of learning each voice, you get to understand how each of them works and how it sounds. Then, when you put them together, you would find it much easier to hear each voice and bring out whatever musical patterns you need to according to the importance of them respectively.
The same concept can be applied to practicing any polyphonic writing or simply, left hand-right hand situation. In order for the voices / two hands to coordinate well together in harmony and balance, they must be able to perform on their own terms first. And to be able to perform on their own terms first, you must train them to do so separately. Often that’s the solution students miss out on taking (“too boring!” “too much time!”), and that’s the main reason why they don’t get familiarised with the piece they have been working on even for a long period of time. Drilling without strategy on how to practice and precision on details will never get to the point where one truly knows about the piece albeit hours spent at the piano.