[anti-rclick] A NON-PIANO STUDENT CASE
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…