Meri’s Musical Musings

Random thoughts on music, September 21, 2009

Posted on: September 21, 2009

On distractions and practicing….

It is often said that practicing should be done in a quiet environment with few distractions. However, when performing, there are often minor distractions such as people coughing or babies crying. I find that occasionally practicing with distractions around actually helps with performance, because it’s an opportunity to learn deep concentration.

On the habit of some people teacher hopping…

Teacher hopping has its consequences. And so does poor behaviour in terms to payment and policies. For often a really stable force is important, and students may want a reference letter or reference check for some reason. Music teachers sometimes talk to each other, and usually students or parents who regularly go from one teacher to another…word gets around, especially among the good teachers of most instruments.

A couple of more items to make…

Mouthpiece pouches (for single reed instruments and all brass instruments). Two pieces of felt, a plastic liner for the inside, some thread (or good glue), a small hole punch, and a short shoelace can make a good drawstring mouthpiece pouch for single reed and brass instruments.

Music Money–in MS Publisher, use the business card section to make the music money of different denominations.

On teachers and pianos…

Many of the better teachers will have a good, somewhat to very responsive upright or grand piano. Beware of the teacher who teaches on an old out of tune piano. A good digital is better than a cheap clunker.

More on pianos…

Old pianos are often not better. Most older pianos have a keyboard that is rather to extremely high compared to most modern grands and uprights, which may cause problems with wrists and hands, especially for young children learning piano. Older pianos often have pedals that are much too high, making nuances of pedalling difficult or impossible. Older pianos are often not as responsive, and this especially comes out in some Romantic era and much Impressionistic music. If you must buy a used piano, buy one that is a top of the line brand, or one that is not more than about 25 years old, 5-10 is better, and has been taken care of reasonably well.

Excerpts from a letter to a student:

Here are my feelings about you trying to do the exams without a teacher–I can tell you from my own experience, my husband’s experience, and with a student who studied with me a number of years ago who tried to do that, they didn’t do that well. A good mark on a music  exam is an 80) My husband tried that a number of years ago with a trombone exam when he was around your age, he didn’t do very well. Even with my theory and history exams, I had someone to guide me along.

Also, I don’t want you to just merely pass the exam, I want you to do exteremely well to boost your confidence. Perhaps you should talk to a student who studied with me and is now in the Toronto Youth Symphony Orchestra, when he first started he thought he was playing at a Grade 9 RCM exam level, however he was doing that quite poorly. I took him back to the Grade 4 level, and on his Grade 4 and Grade 6 he scored over 90% (93 on Grade 4 and 91 on Grade 6). To this day he is glad I took him back a few levels. 
With the intervals and melody plackbacks and the connection to theory, I want you to understand what you are doing! This also applies to learning the requirements for exams.
I don’t even know if you even have a copy of the requirements for the exams. I also have been planning for you to play in at least 2, maybe 3 or 4 competitions, though the deadlines are coming up for some of them. I recently got a computer program to help all students learn all the ear training requirements. And you cannot use recorded accompaniment for the exams.
While there is not much difference in the difficulty of the studies between Grade 2 and Grade 4, the leap from Grade 4 to Grade 6 is a pretty big one. Some of the studies even at the Grade 6 level are tough, especially those that are part of an additional book you would need for Grade 6. Even the scale requirements is a big jump, from scales and arpeggios up to 4 sharps and flats, to all major and harmonic minor scales and arpeggios.
Basically this is about being a confident performer and really knowing your music so well you can play it in your sleep.
On why some children do poorly in school music programs…
It’s because they have not developed an ear for the sounds of Western instruments, scales, tones, and rhythms. I noticed that quite a few music students I have or have had that recently immigrated to North America from several Asian countries have a difficult time understanding how major and minor scales work. I find some of these students even have serious problems learning to play an instrument due to major problems with negative tension. And this is not just my observation: other teachers I know have noticed this too.

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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