Month: April 2010

Case Scenarios 例子

[anti-rclick]Some of you might wonder what exactly Piano Clinic is. I would like to explain to you in further details here. Let me give you some examples:

Case Scenario I 例子一

My student’s friend came to me for some lessons on grade 8 aural test. She was a quick learner, and had quite a good ear, so she did well even just for a few hours of this rather difficult aural training (especially the harmonic progression part). Then she asked for my advice on her grade 8 pieces. So I listened to her playing, and was horrified to find she play this first piece incredibly fast. I asked her why she took such a quick tempo. She replied that her teacher told her it was a dance piece so it should be played as fast as possible (apparently Prestissimo was not even fast enough!).

一名學生的朋友來找我上一些八級聽力測試的課 。她學得很快,並有相當不錯的耳朵,所以雖然她在這個相當困難的聽力測試中(尤其是和絃部分)只有幾個小時的訓練,但仍然表現出色。接著她懇求我給她有關三首八級考試曲目的意見。於是,我聽了她的彈奏,卻吃驚地發現她將第一首樂曲彈得令人難以置信的快速。我問她為什麼要彈奏到如此快的程度。她回答說,她的老師告訴她,這是一個舞蹈作品所以應該盡可能地快(顯然而見, Prestissimo這般的瘋狂快版是尚未達標的,因為此乖巧學生還一面慚愧地說她還沒有達到老師要求的速度!)。

The piece is a Baroque sarabande. Indeed it is a dance piece, but a slow one! In Baroque era, dance pieces were popular, and they were grouped as sets of dance suites. For instance, in the keyboard works of J.S. Bach, there are French Suites and English Suites. Each suite consists of several numbers of dance pieces, e.g. Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue etc. Under the specified name there is a set style and tempo, that means “Gigue” is definitely a quick dance, while “Sarabande” is a slow one. If the girl played that exam piece at such a fast speed, she would for sure fail. It was fortunate she could change the way she had been playing for a year in a few days, and eventually she was awarded grade 8 proficiency with merit. I could tell she could have gotten distinction should she study with a well-informed teacher.

該作品是巴洛克式的薩拉班德舞曲 (sarabande)。的而且確,這是一個舞蹈作品,但它郤是一個慢版的舞曲!在巴洛克時代,舞蹈曲式是十分流行的,他們還會被歸納為組曲 (dance suites)。比如,在J.S.巴赫的鍵盤作品中,我們便找到法國組曲和英國組曲。每套組曲包括若干數量的舞蹈小品,如:阿勒曼德舞曲 (allemande),庫朗特舞曲 (courante), 薩拉班德舞曲 (sarabande),基格舞曲 (gigue) 等。指定的名稱下有一個特定的風格和速度,例如基格舞曲 肯定是一個輕快的舞曲,而薩拉班德舞曲則是優雅而拍子方面比較緩慢。如果上述學生在考試中彈奏這樣一個快的速度,她肯定會不合格的。幸好她在數天內改變了她已經習慣了一年的彈法,最終她亦得到優良(merit)的成績。我深知她是有能力獲得優異(distinction)的分數的。

Case Scenario II 例子二: A PIANO STUDENT CASE

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Music Teaching: Case Scenerio II 例子二

There was a student who played a wind instrument needed my help for aural training and piano accompaniment for her graded exam. She seemed to feel pretty confident in her preparation. We started our practice with the first piece; however I found she was not that well prepared: the tempo and pulse were unsteady. I thought okay at least this song could be fixed in a short period of time (the exam was due in ten days!). As we proceeded to work on the second piece, I realized the way she played one repeated rhythmic pattern was just plain wrong. It was a regular two-quaver rhythm, but in this particular song, the composer indicated in the score that it was a “swing” rhythm, that means the first quaver should be played double the length as the second one, and therefore, we could view the whole rhythmic pattern as a triplet, so that the first note was a crotchet and the second note a quaver. Or in simple language, the first note should be played longer than the second one.

It was easy to recognize the mistake, but difficult to fix it. When a student had worked on something wrong for long time, it would take much longer time and much more effort to correct it and re-learn something right. I did not want to hurt the student’s feeling and confidence, while at the same time I needed to tell her to change almost everything. It was not a smooth path to be taken.

I did not want to venture into fixing the third piece since it was a solo piece without piano accompaniment. But since the student’s parent asked for my advice, I listened to it. I was filled with headache: it was totally under preparation! There was no sense of direction, the notes were crumbled together, the tempo and rhythm were off, there was not much of dynamic contrast, etc. Fortunately, it was not a long piece of music. Still, I worked with the student phrase by phrase, identifying the repeated patterns and sequences she had never recognized before. It was like learning a new piece from scratch.

Here came the best part, or the worst case scenario: scales. The student simply had no idea which ones she should be practising on and therefore the whole time during her practice she had been working on the wrong ones. That was not something I could fix in two days before the exam. The only thing I could do was simply to tell her which ones she needed for the exam and work on them a bit with her in lesson so that she could go practise on her own at home.

At the end she took the exam, did okay with the pieces and aural test. I also practised sight-reading part with her so she should be fine with it. The scales? We could only did so much with the limited time, hope for the best and wait for the result to arrive…


[anti-rclick]April 26, 2010.

Even though we play the piano with our hands, it all starts from our brain. How we think and feel influence and almost determine how we play eventually. Therefore, Parents, please be positive to your children. I know sometimes it is very hard for us- the generation who was probably trained under verbal and corporal punishment when young- to say positive things when we are mad about our children and therefore use negative words to make them alert and realize their mistakes (because we love them and we want the best for them). But Please from now onwards, communicate and instruct with positive comments. For example,

Never say, “You are so lazy!”
Say instead, “Please work a bit harder now.”

Never say, “You are so stupid, how come you don’t get it after these many times of practice?”
Say instead, “I can see you have been working hard, and that’s very good effort. But it seems it is not getting where we want, can we think about why now and try different ways to solve what seems to be the problem?”

Never say, “Oh your playing sounds so ugly!”
Say instead, “Hmm last time you played it sounded a bit harsh. I think there should be something you can do to sound better. Now can you think about what it is? Perhaps try a few different ways to play it and see if you can make it softer?”

Be positive and you will get positive results. Be negative and you might never get there.

Reference book: The Key to Living the Law of Attraction by Jack Canfield and D.D. Watkins

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[anti-rclick]英文版原文: Young Children’s Practice Sessions


在我的課堂規則 我建議初學者和學生於第一年的學習期間保持每日練習二十至三十分鐘的做法。我覺得我要在這裡進一步說明這個規則。

這一個規則只是一般的準則。對於年輕初學者(四至五歲),他們不應該被迫每天練習 二十至三十分鐘。在頭幾個月的鋼琴訓練期間,小孩子可練習十至十五分鐘,只在有必要或孩子們自己想多彈一點時,家長才應嘗試把練習延長至二十分鐘。我建議我的學生家長,他們可以將孩子每天的練習分成兩節,每節為十分鐘,而每節應保持短小和精確;這是更有效的練習方法。例如,孩子可以在放學後,先作一個小小的休息和進食一點蛋白質含量高的零食,然後再進行十分鐘的練習。然後,他們可以繼續他們的日常活動。



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Young Children’s Practice Sessions

[anti-rclick]中文版: 常見的鋼琴學習問題

April 19, 2010.

In my studio policy I suggest beginners and students of first year’s learning keep a daily routine of 20-30 minutes’ practice. I feel that I have to further elaborate on such guideline.

This guideline indicates a  “general” schedule. For really young beginners (4-5 years’ old), they should not be pushed to practise 20-30 minutes every day. During the first few months of piano training, young children should probably practise about 10-15 minutes which can be extended to 20 minutes only when necessary and when the children themselves want to play more. I suggest my students’ parents that it would be more effective when they break daily practice into 2 sessions of 10 minutes and keep each session short and precise. For instance, children can practise 10 minutes after school, having a little rest and small high-protein snack for energy boost. Then they can go on with their daily routine. 

Another 10-minute session can occur after dinner. If the students get everything done in the first 10-minute session or there is really no more time, there is no need to make them practise another 10 minutes. But students should work on different music or aspects of music in the two sessions or else they would feel bored and obliged to practise, wondering why they have to repeat same practise twice.  

Remember, this is only applied to beginner students of ages 4-5. From age 6 onwards children should be able to sit still and practise for at least 15 minutes a day or in one session.   

Reference Book: Your musical child: inspiring kids to play and sing for keeps By Jessica Baron Turner

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