Piano Lessons | Chambers Music

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Piano Lessons

Our piano education includes the teaching of the motor, intellectual, problem-solving, and artistic skills involved in playing the piano effectively. Citing the influence of Zoltan Kodaly, Carl Orff and Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, Russian-American piano pedagogue at Longy School of Music, Dr. Faina Bryanskaya, advocates a holistic approach which integrates as many aspects of music-making as possible at once would result in the most effective piano teaching.

Ear training

Dr. Bryanskaya argues that the foremost important task for piano teachers at the onset of a student’s time of study is the introduction of a habit of listening to quality performances of “descriptive and strikingly expressive music”, as a means for “sensitizing [the student] to the meaning of music”.

Rhythm

In his series How Music Works, Howard Goodall presents theories that rhythm recalls how we walk and the heartbeat we heard in the womb. More likely is that a simple pulse or di-dah beat recalls the footsteps of another person. Our sympathetic urge to dance is designed to boost our energy levels in response to stimulus. Perceiving rhythm is also the ability to master the otherwise invisible dimension, time. Some genres of music make different use of rhythm than others. Sub-Saharan African music traditions and most Western music is based on subdivision, while non-Western music uses more additive rhythm. African music makes heavy use of polyrhythms, specifically cross-rhythm and Indian music uses complex cycles such as 7 and 13, while Balinese music often uses complex interlocking rhythms. By comparison, a lot of Western classical music is fairly rhythmically (or metrically) simple; it stays in a simple meter such as 4/4 or 3/4 and makes little use of syncopation.

Technique

Good piano playing technique involves the simultaneous understanding in both the mind and the body of the relationships between the elements of music theory, recognition of musical patterns in notation and at the fingertips, the physical landscape of the entire range of the keyboard, finger dexterity and independence, and a wide range of touch and tone production for a variety of emotional expressions. Skills in all of these areas should always be nurtured and development for the sake of expressing oneself more effectively and naturally through the sound of the piano, so that the elements of technique would sound alive with musicality.

Improvisation

The modern trend of piano lessons tends to lean toward an overemphasis on learning notation, and neglects the nurturing needed for developing the creative spirit and sensitive ears which lead to expressive music-making. Studies point to the need for using multiple approaches in learning musical skills which engage both sides of the brain—the analytical and the intuitive—for students to master all aspects of playing. Therefore, teaching improvisation skills may help students take ownership of the expressive quality of the music they make, and to keep music learning and practicing alive and interesting. One way to do so is to make up stories full of different emotions through improvising, in order to reinforce concepts of music theory already introduced and to develop a wide range of touch and tone production.

Sight reading

Highly skilled musicians can sight-read silently; that is, they can look at the printed music and hear it in their heads without playing or singing. Less able sight-readers generally must at least hum or whistle in order to sight-read effectively. This distinction is analogous to ordinary prose reading during the early Middle Ages, when the ability to read silently was notable enough for St. Augustine to comment on it.

According to Payne (2005), “the ability to hear the notes on the page is clearly akin to music reading and should be considered a prerequisite for effective performance…. Egregious errors can occur when a student, analyzing a piece of music, makes no effort to play or hear the composition but mechanically processes the notes on the page.”

Memorization

Effective memorization results from the “combination of visual, kinaesthetic, aural and analytical skills”.