Friday, August 9, 2013

Video to watch! Murray Perahia: Not of this World

Here's a quick link to a pretty cool German-produced video of Murray Perahia. He is one of the top pianists in the world and just amazing to listen to.  It's such an experience for our aspiring musicians to actually see and listen to world-class musicians. I bet many of you have seen what a professional athlete looks like.....have you ever seen a professional pianist in action? For $6, you can access the video for 48 hours. Might be a fun "movie night" or rainy day activity!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Watch your favorite "Piano Adventures" piece on Youtube

Thanks to the Anderson's for this great tip:

Not feeling quite like practicing yet today?  How about some computer time! I bet by the time you get done watching a few of these great videos, your fingers will be itching to tickle those keys. Sometimes it just helps to hear or see someone else play your next lesson assignment piece.  Of course, this isn't a compromise to reading the notes, which I still want you to do! But music is listening. And listening is a skill that can be sharpened!

Check out Marc Mangino's youtube page. He is a wonderful teacher and has gone through just about every song in the Piano Adventures lesson books. In these videos he tells you about common pitfalls, what to listen for and plays the piece with a sensitive technique.  This is a great encouragement for those times when you might feel stuck, frustrated, or just plain unmotivated to practice.

I'd love to do this too at some point....very cool project!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

3 Great Books for improving your At-Home Practicing

Practice Practice Practice.  After teaching for 10+ years, I'm finally starting to realize that when I say that I "teach piano" what I'm really doing is "teaching how to practice."  I'm going to try this year to avoid saying things like "just take this home and practice it this week, and show me what you come up with!"  Instead I'm going to say something like "measures 8-12 need a round of Bug Spotting followed by a game of Metronome Madness until you can play it 3 times in a row at 92."

Practicing is a lifelong skill that is developed through mindful attention to detail. It is a process of decision making, of strategy, of careful listening and evaluation. It's a wonderful gift to give our children - the skill of how to better yourself! As parents and educators, isn't that the goal?  Teach 'em to fish!

Here are a few books I have in the studio that students are welcome to page through during lessons or borrow for the week.  If you'd like to grab a copy for yourself, they make great gifts!

Practiceopedia by Philip Johnston.  This hefty book is the encyclopedia of great ideas for making practice fun and efficient.  Although it's a higher price tag, this is an awesome resource!  The writing is funny and interesting, and the ideas are sound and easy to implement. I love that he makes practicing piano into life-and-death drama! Philip makes it easy to reference ideas that fix common problems, ie "not wanting to practice" or "managing deadlines." Great for breaking a practice funk!

Not Until You've Done Your Practice by Philip Johnston and David Sutton.  If you don't want to spring for the Practiceopedia, this is a great option!  Same great ideas, just not as detailed in the description. This is one the kids can read themselves and enjoy - there are some great graphics to complement each practice strategy. Very easy to implement today!

The Piano Student's Guide to Effective Practicing, a Hal Leonard publication.  This is a full sized tri-fold brochure outlining some excellent practice strategies to use at home. This is a great reference catalogue if you need a few quick ideas for a specific problem or if you get stuck!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bobby McFerrin at the 2009 World Science Fair

Although this has been floating around for a few years, it's definitely worth a view! We use the pentatonic scale at our first piano lesson - it's all the black keys! This is a wonderful and easy tool for improvising and creating your own songs - try it on your piano at home.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Keep your piano skills alive during breaks!

Hello Students and Parents!

Have you ever said to yourself "Wow, my child was able play new songs so quickly last year, but after taking this summer off it's like he/she has completely forgotten how to read music!"  Today I'd like to brainstorm a few ideas with you for keeping those piano skills alive - especially during extended breaks like summer, holidays, and when your teacher has a baby! It's frustrating how quickly skills like sight-reading and playing scales deteriorate with even a few weeks off.  Oh, and it takes a ton of work to build them back up once lost!  Argggg.

Try 1 or 2 of these simple ideas at home during your next break and I bet you'll be patting yourself on the back in a few weeks!

  1. Routine within a Routine:  It doesn't have to be 30 minutes every day.  Even 10 minutes of "real practice" before breakfast or after homework a few times a week will help keep those piano skills alive.  BUT HERE IS THE TRICK: Listen to what your child is playing and help them structure a PIANO ROUTINE for those 10 minutes.  Don't let them just noodle around or play the 3 passages they remember from their favorite piece over and over as fast as they can (especially if your child is a 4-7th grade boy).  Encourage 1-2 minutes each of warm-ups, scales, SIGHT-READING, and old recital pieces along with their current favorites.  
  2. Sight-Read: Being able to play the notes on the page is the first....THE FIRST....skill to crash and burn when you stop practicing.  So encourage your child to try and play something their fingers don't already know. Take out a lesson book from a few years ago, swap books with a friend, buy a "Sight-Reading" book for $5-8, google your favorite pop songs and you'll find sheet music to print off, or even get a set of flashcards and practice naming notes.
  3. Online Games and Ipad apps: If your child is anything like my husband, then they will do anything to have their face glued to a screen all day long. There are wonderful ways of taking advantage of this! Here are a few links for you
    • Emily's favorite Online Games/Apps
      • - I pay for a monthly subscription to this site, please use it! If you don't know your username and password, email me!
      • YouTube Videos - When I need a little inspiration, I watch a few of my favorite pianists play.  Try a few of these big names in the piano world: "Horowitz" "Argarich" "Lang Lang" "The 5 Browns" "Emily Brown" 
      • Here is a list on my website
      • Here is a great blog with the most current Ipad apps 
  4. Music Activities Away from the Piano: OK, so your child won't sit down on the piano bench. How can you sneak music-related activities into other areas of their life?
    • Emily's Favorite "Away from the Piano" activities
      • Music Sketch Book: Buy or make a little book of staff paper and a pencil. Use this to practice drawing treble clefs, or try writing down your favorite pop melodies or rhythms, or compose your own music!  It's like a scrapbook of little musical ideas!
      • Theory Pages: Get a notespeller book or find free notespeller or theory pages to print online.  Keep a stack of them in the car or when you are at a siblings hockey game. An old-fashioned written version of a smartphone app :)
      • Listen to Piano Music: That's right, download some classical music or check out a few CD's from the library.  Have them playing in the background before dinner or on the weekend.  You'll soon develop favorites!
Paderewski (a famous concert pianist) is coined with this thought: 
If I don't practice for one day, I know it; if I don't practice for two days, my friends know it. If I don't practice for three days, EVERYBODY knows it...

If you don't practice all summer, your piano teacher will DEFINITELY know it :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cool video using prepared piano to get a hip hop beat

Hey Kids - take a look at this one!  These guys are using a "Prepared Piano."  Prepared Piano is where you alter the regular sound of the piano, usually by placing something on or through the strings that add a different sound.  The tune they use is an old jazz standard, but they've re-imagined it so that it sounds very cool.  Duets for the spring recital anyone??

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Great TED talk about Classical Music!

Benjamin Zander, an amazing teacher and conductor, gives this great talk on classical music.  It's very energizing and inspiring for both parents and students to watch!  Very funny yet deeply moving.  Check it out!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013