Category: Music Appreciation

To Adult Piano Beginners

If you are between 18 and 100 and are looking into taking piano lessons as an absolute beginner, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made the first step to starting this wonderful musical journey with a magical and (literally) majestic instrument.

I am certainly biased here, being a classically trained pianist for so many years. I basically live, breathe and sleep with piano/music in my head 24/7. I love playing, teaching and writing about it/them.

I have to admit though, it was not love at the first sight, and I was no child prodigy. I just went through the early period of my “piano life” because I was told to like every other obedient child. My brothers played piano and I also played it, with it being part of our education curriculum.

All those early years I spent at the piano with a few piano teachers were not all that enjoyable or educational really – no offense, but I believe most of them didn’t know what they were doing. I have perfect pitch (which can be a blessing and a curse), and my teachers didn’t even know or take advantage of that to teach me. They just went through the books (“play louder, play correct, play faster, and then some more!”) and thought they did their jobs, one of them occasionally comparing me to my brother (who was doing much better than I back then) and implying that I was a disappointment to her as my piano exam grades were not as good.

Long story short, I thought I was not good at piano. In fact, quite the contrary, and not until I met my first real Teacher, that I realized I loved playing the piano and I was actually quite good at it.

She opened my eyes, ears and mind to this whole new magical world of music. I mean, I never thought playing the piano was that fun and literally, colorful! (She made me draw a picture about the piece I was playing, and even though I was super bad at drawing and she teased me about it, it was an amazing experience to know that music had image and story and color and so much more…)

And I was 13.

Piano has taken me to many places, met many people and experienced many things I would have otherwise never had. I went to Europe for music festival before 18, spent a summer playing music in ancient castles and opera houses in Italy and sang in the Vatican Church. I got invited to France and all the amazing countries to perform in concerts. I also wrote books on piano, started a piano school and a charity organization, and did a lot of interesting fun concerts all these years.

I am writing about my experiences to show how grateful I feel to have all these opportunities, just because I play the piano.

I guess what I am saying is, I have a lot of passion for piano, not just playing it, but promoting it, writing about it, and teaching it. I spent a lot of waking (and sleepy) hours thinking about how to help students play better. I wrote articles and make videos sharing for free about how others can play and teach better. I do all these only because I love it.

So whenever someone new – whether they be 3 or 93 – is coming to take piano lessons with me, I am always feel with anticipation and excitement, thinking, “great, another opportunity to share my passion with a new student!”. And when they feel frustrated with how it goes at the beginning, I always remind them, “it’s just a start, don’t worry, it’s okay to not know how and make mistake, because that’s how we learn!”.

All these years in my piano teaching career, I have so many adult students, including those who start from scratch as an absolute beginner, advanced players and piano teachers. Those who are “successful” in learning how to play – meaning they have good progress and enjoy their playing and learning – are always the ones who love the challenges, who put effort into learning and practice, and who are not afraid to make mistakes and keep going.

I know I have been long winded in this post, but what I want to really say to you is, if you still are thinking about whether you should start playing the piano or not, I say “go for it”. There’s nothing to lose but time wasted in pondering upon what could happen if you’ve tried your hands at the piano – and hey, if you’ve tried it and found out you don’t like it, great, no need to pursue it. Move on to the next project!

Let’s make some music together!

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[:]

More on music analysis (Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata)

This video is about welcoming my new viewers and on music analysis with Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata as an example.

More on music analysis on Beethoven’s Pathetique (II)