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Let's Write A New Book!

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10 Feb 2013 17:55 - 10 Feb 2013 18:32 #8293 by hellene
Replied by hellene on topic Let's Write A New Book!
A talented student is playing during his lesson – his parents and I are the audience, listening and melting with joy. The student is flushed, entirely empowered by his passion for playing, as if each sound is turning this God’s creation into a composer and interpreter. All three as a whole unite with the music. Sometimes you get goose bumps at such moments and life is worth living.

But the human being is a very social species. A gifted child wants to share his success. He wants to play for his friends, for acquaintances and strangers. He wants to share his talent with others to confirm that someone else appreciates his skills, too. He wants to make sure they are valued by more people than just his mom, dad and music teacher.


Let’s see what is in store for him – a talented child at the beginning of the 21st century. I am going to write about his experience in the USA because I live here and witness such stories over and over again. Perhaps in other countries everything is different, but I think difference is not very large.

“Who needs your talent?” – This is the first message that society gives to any talented performer. Buried into iPhones and iPads, we learn to “call up” any music the way Aladdin called his obedient genie from the lamp. “OK, Sweetie,” we say to a live musician, “Prove to us that you can produce something better than this digital device!”
Van Cliburn, Scott Joplin (Lady Gaga, Britney Spears – you name it!) performs THIS better then you! Don’t even try to pretend to be as great as they are! You are not an original – you are just a copy. Therefore, talented kids and even professional performers mostly play in front of . . . an audience who eats while they listen. So what? While they are busy enjoying food and conversation, they also enjoy your performance as long as you are not too loud and/or impertinent.




“Keep playing, pianist, keep playing . . . Just don’t bother us while we eat and talk.”

Often I receive letters from the parents of children who learn to play piano and read music with my curriculum “Soft Way to Mozart.” And they’re not only from parents. Adult-beginners and even teens are also asking me the same questions: How do we MAKE ourselves study music on a regular basis? How do we maintain an interest in practicing now – in our busy modern times when “nobody cares” whether or not we play? How do we stay motivated for the chore of practicing in the summertime or on holidays, in winter and in spring when there are way too many activities and seemingly NO TIME and besides, “who cares”?
Here are some thoughts I want to share with you:

1. Power of Music. We should explain to our kids while we keep reminding ourselves that music education is a tool for training our minds. The solution to ANY problem – whether logical or emotional – is easier to find if you can make music, play instruments; passive listening is not as effective. You may push a button and pull a tune from your iPod. You may also sit and perform the same exact piece yourself at the piano. The quality of the performance is probably very different and most likely not in your favor.

But the quality of the IMPACT on YOUR mind will be much stronger if you will make the music and interpret it by yourself. The cells of your own cortex will be intensely stimulated emotionally and logically at the same time. And YOUR mind will be able to find the most correct decision to solve your problems. Most importantly, by MAKING music by yourself with your own body, heart and soul, you are participating in a process of changing your own life and fate. You receive a very important message from your own subconscious: you are a master of your own life even when you’re play by notes written by another creator.
For children this is one of the most important lessons of their lives. It is no accident that Plato named music education the foundation of general study, and making music should be placed in front of all of the other subjects.

2. Surroundings. Russians have a saying that a really educated person ought to have at least 3 diplomas: his, his parents and his grandparents. Create a “cult of music education” in your family. Do not be intimidated by the word “cult.” After the global pull back from music education, when music is gradually being squeezed out of public schools and pianos are given away for free to be replaced by pieces of furniture, it is time to swing the pendulum the other way.
Without a piano or even a digital keyboard, a home has no soul. This instrument has to have the most comfortable place in the house, accessible to all family members. This instrument should never collect any dust on it. If someone goes to play it, with or without headphones, everyone else should respect this creative act and never prevent it from happening
3. Social communication. Try to find “brothers in music making.” Carefully look around in your child’s day-care center or school. Are there any other parents who understand the importance of music education and whose child is taking piano classes?

Do you enjoy meeting people? Initiate some meetings – evenings – parties, where children and adults will play music pieces for each other. Make it a tradition! Communicate, have fun, eat delicious food, let kids communicate with each other, too. Why don’t we add more flavor and meaning to your parties?
Such meetings can change the quality of your communication not just with other adults, but also with children – big time! Start with a little recital. When your little “pumpkins” and you play music pieces prepared especially for the event, the bond between generations will become much stronger.
4. Virtual communication. Internet communities. Interactive communication can also be a huge incentive for teaching music for you and your children. A little more than a year ago, we founded the Soft Mozart community (a forum and network) for people who want to receive a good effective music education.

Our experience proved to us how important is it to be heard and to have the ability to communicate while receiving a music education. Even little children love to play for their peers from different countries as well as listen to their friends’ performances. They like to hear the pieces that they are learning as well as new ones. After that they suddenly say to their parents: “I am going to learn this song, too!”
We developed our Academy with the goal of giving people not only an opportunity to communicate directly with music educators and receive individual consulting, but also a chance to get inspired by other learners and/or their parents. By being in touch with people who care about music education and who want the best for their children and themselves, our community members receive positive reinforcement and strengthen their own motivation.

I believe the day will come soon when making music will become common in every home. Then we will truly learn not just how to perform music pieces, but also how to HEAR each other and see creativity in every person.

I wish you and your families success and happiness!
Sincerely yours,

Hellene Hiner

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Last edit: 10 Feb 2013 18:32 by hellene.
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27 Feb 2013 03:07 - 27 Feb 2013 03:10 #8526 by hellene
Replied by hellene on topic Let's Write A New Book!
I am going to be as detailed and precise as possible in answering these VERY IMPORTANT questions.

FINGERING.

Before Soft Mozart came into existence ALL the methods used in teaching piano were based on muscle memory.

Why is that?

There are a couple of essential videos that explain the problem:





In short: when teaching children to play on many similar-looking keys by reading the similar-looking notes, we force kids to develop their skills in a BLIND MODE. They look at notes and keys, but can't grasp them.

Blind people need muscle memory to move around.

This is why before we invented adds to see each key in connection with each note + offered a yellow line of focus, which supports learner's vision, THE ONLY WAY to start learning any piece was with finger numbers.

Even I, a classically trained musician, was uncomfortable at first watching my students using the wrong fingers. In fact, it drove me crazy! :woohoo:

Now after 10 years of teaching my students with Soft Mozart, I have a more "laid back" attitude towards fingering. I carefully watch just the numbers on the right and left sides of the monitor.

Here are some stages that EVERY BEGINNER passes during their learning process with Soft Mozart:

1. LOOKING FOR NOTES AND KEYS stage.

Yes! Even with all the visual aids, beginners still have to build their skill to grasp a note and find it on the keyboard.

At this stage you may make as many fingering suggestions as you want, but... the beginner simply won't have enough "room" to hear you.

The score at this stage is usually as this: missing many notes on the left and a very large amount of missing the timing on the right.

2. BUILDING EYE/HAND COORDINATION stage

If the timing on the right side of the screen is significantly decreased, it means that beginners are progressing to this stage. They make fewer and fewer mistakes, are capable of keeping their eyes on the music score most of the time, but still struggle with developing their fine motor skills, trying to cooperate with visual hints.

At this stage beginners are not ready for fingering suggestions either. Their minds are preoccupied with the goal of making their fingers more responsive to the notation.

At this point there are fewer and fewer mistakes on the left and the time figure is getting closer to the number of notes played correctly. The beginner is not just capable of caring about playing with the correct fingers, but still hardly hearing, is he playing music or just trying to press some keys?

You may compare this to learning how to drive a car the first time in your life: you have to look at all mirrors, control the gas and brake pedals - and... enjoy the view outside the windows

(to be continued)

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Last edit: 27 Feb 2013 03:10 by hellene.
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27 Feb 2013 03:11 - 27 Feb 2013 03:15 #8527 by hellene
Replied by hellene on topic Let's Write A New Book!
FINGERING. (Continued)

3. ADDING AUDIO PERCEPTION TO ESTABLISHED EYE/HAND COORDINATION.

When the number of correctly pressed keys and the amount of time are about the same, beginners have enough "room" in their minds already to process audio information more attentively.

At this point singing the melody of the piece in Solfeggio is very stimulating because it promotes rhythm in the beginner's performance. When learning at this stage, a student still doesn't have a music "flow" and plays some parts of the music faster (when the coordination is less challenging) or slower (when he/she is facing some difficulties).

4. EYE/HAND COORDINATION + AUDIO PERCEPTION + MEMORIZATION OF MUSIC.

When the number of correct notes is close to perfect and the timing drops below this amount, the beginner is at the stage, when it is time to make some suggestions about appropriate fingerings.

By getting to this point, you will be truly surprised that the beginner will figure out the fingering mostly on his/her own! This works especially well if your student has been practicing our scales and exercises as we suggest in our curriculum and guidelines!

WITH SOFT MOZART IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DEVELOP "BAD HABITS" IN MANAGING CORRECT FINGERS BECAUSE WE USE MANY DIFFERENT SENSES IN LEARNING AND DON'T PROMOTE DEPENDENCY FROM THE MUSCLE MEMORY.

Therefore, our students are more flexible in using different fingering positions and their fingers are not fastened to certain keys.

I have watched Soft Mozart students on stage and have noticed a very interesting quality of their performance: they never panic and forget their place because they can create many reasonable and professional combinations since they are free to use all their senses.

You may compare it with people who fluently speak a language and give a speech - as opposed to people who have just memorized couple of phrases and are trying to recite them in front of audience.

(to be continued)

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Last edit: 27 Feb 2013 03:15 by hellene.
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27 Feb 2013 03:14 #8528 by hellene
Replied by hellene on topic Let's Write A New Book!
FINGERING AND SOFT MOZART

POLISHING STAGES IN PLAYING PIANO PIECES

5. MEMORIZATION. ALL PREVIOUS SKILLS + SPEECH MEMORY


After getting stable results with almost no mistakes on the left and timing that is close to 0 (don't try to have 0!!! :woohoo: You are not a machine!) it is time to start memorizing the piece.

My students memorize piano pieces in segments or as a whole, with separate hands and with both.

They first play R and RH, L and LH and P with PH.

To make the memorization painless and more effective, I often ask them to sing the note names with the "sounds of music" or solfeggio. Such enhancement helps the beginners to have another point of support, which is the speech memory.

6. WORKING ON PIANO TECHNIQUE OR A SONG'S FLOW

The goal of this stage is to teach beginners to keep a steady rhythm and build the song's flow.

First, I do it in class by pressing the metronome or the rhythm section and play with my student together like this:



But now we are developing the TEACHING VIDEOS section, where you can find your piece, place it in front of you and start practicing by follow the lead. Here is our student Rachel working on "The Entertainer" using our video with the metronome:



7. POLISHING THE PIANO PIECE FOR PERFORMANCE

If you do not have a piano teacher, we created the videos, where you can learn proper artistic playing with us. Well, even if you DO have a piano teacher, our videos are still very helpful!

Here is Rachel learning how to play "Midnight Blues" artistically:



You will find it FUN to find many piano players on You Tube performing your piece. You can get some new ideas on how to improve your performance and become creative in interpreting your music.

My little information about sheet music will be a little later in this topic

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27 Feb 2013 03:31 #8529 by hellene
Replied by hellene on topic Let's Write A New Book!
Some of these ideas came from using Soft Mozart's data. Since the program lets us see accurate figures on the notes pressed and time spent, "assumption" or "philosophy" is not the right word for some of the discoveries that have been made while using the program for more than 10 years.

Back to original topic about finger -- or not just finger, about final artistically play. I found some terms -for example: " Posture, Hand Position (bud, bloom, perch), Firm Nail Joints, Wrist releases, ... (question from our forum member


I know the drill... :lol: After 7 years of music school, 4 years of music college and 5 years of music university, I had had enough of these words said to my classmates and me. I tried my best to follow the suggestions but developed some "inner stress" that was covered by "Posture, Hand Position (bud, bloom, perch), Firm Nail Joints, Wrist releases." If someone would ask piano teachers to complete an anonymous questionnaire, he would be surprised to learn how many of us are affected by such problem.

Why?

Let's ask ourselves a simple question: where did all these "standards" in learning instruments come from? Who, when and how had the sudden "epiphany" about "hand position"?

The answer is simple: such standards were developed through observations of the best players or prodigies. If most of them play using bud, bloom, perch, Firm Nail Joints, Wrist releases - everybody should.
Therefore, there is no way it could be otherwise.

But prodigies, or "original," have an essential difference from the "copy cats" -- they have an inner perception and understanding of music. They capture sounds instantly through their minds and they grasp piano keys and music notes with "inner vision" without even looking at the keys or notes. They don't have to pretend that they have "wrist releases" -- they genuinely have them, and their mentors have little to do with it. We call it "Gift From God."

An example?

Our programmer, who lives in Ukraine, is named Yuri. He never took piano lessons. As he confessed to me, he didn't like to play outside much and preferred to stay home and learn new things. They had a piano in the apartment (most Russians did!) and after receiving some simple instructions from adults about note placement and after reading some theory books he started teaching himself...

Now it is hard to believe that he is not a professional piano player!



Believe it or not, nobody told him anything about bud, bloom, perch, Firm Nail Joints, or Wrist releases. First he learned how to coordinate his hands and fingers, and after that he started craving the information about demonstrating "artistry" and going to concerts, listening to recordings...

Another example: a couple of my very gifted students. As soon as they pass the beginning stage, they beg me to give them polishing secrets and if I am not around, they go to the Internet and watch the greatest pianists so they can surprise me next time with new 'tricks' they have taught themselves.

*Should I tell them upfront to never listen to Glenn Gould because he is not keeping appropriate "posture" at his piano and keeps his wrists high? LOL? *



But instead of giving beginners this "inner vision" that every prodigy has or the simple ability to envision what they play, piano teachers make them copy hand movements and cause them to develop "inner stress" on the top of it.




Without the vision, the "not yet prodigy" students mock the gracefulness while paying the high price of being "jammed" every time they learn a new piece. I have heard hundreds of stories. Even concert pianists tell me about phantom pains in the neck and shoulders during their first rehearsals.

What can I tell you about the millions of drop outs from studying piano and/or other instruments? They quit for good and don't want their kids to have the same experience learning to make music.

5 Finger Patterns


This phrase is used SO often by the entire industry of music teaching -- that now most people use it without even thinking about it. Staying dependent on "finger placements" comes from blindness. How do blind people learn to move around? They rely on muscle memory.

...in All Major/Minor Keys, Mixed Articulation, 2 Octave White Key Major Scales & Arpeggios with dynamic shape, Forearm Drops, Consistent Legato, Wrist Staccato (early independence between the hands), Phrase Shaping, Voicing/Balance Between the Hands, Voicing a Chord at End of Piece." remark from our forum


It is all a "superstructure" that has to be built on a strong concrete foundation:




When we say artistically, do we mean by this, so do we mean that we are going to introduce it at the final stage-- performance stage. And it is for every song the child play, when they play it very fluently, then polish it with what these piano technique can apply. Remark from our forum


I compare it to baking cakes. Sometimes we make them for fun; sometimes we have to put icing on them and even cherries. The goal to be "on stage" is the goal from a century ago. Humanity achieved it! We have plenty of stage performers already! I am not saying that we don't need new ones any more, but rather let them develop naturally without sweat. :) Piano playing has to become the key-opener for a new quality of life for most of the population because maintaining creativity is the goal of education.

Can then aside each piece in teaching video, the artistic point/technique and key points be summarized in text? I am not so keen to look for things at shopping (so video). Comment from our forum


Trust me, when you learn many piano pieces, one day the quantity will demand quality, and you WILL look everywhere for hints to play artistically. You and I and all of us hate SPAM, right? We want our questions to be answered when we are ready to hear the answers. Otherwise it all goes in deaf ears.

Shall we have a kind of map? Question from the forum about Soft Mozart curriculum


We learn by spirals. Second, third levels etc. will have the same structure in general with more advanced content. Here in this community, Soft Mozart teachers and parents and I are sharing all of our knowledge for others to follow in our footsteps. It seems like we have a long way to go! ;)

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13 Mar 2013 17:02 #8819 by dalis
Replied by dalis on topic Let's Write A New Book!
Great read indeed.

"Do not be afraid of stamping on one place. In teaching young children the most important goal is not the result of learning, but maintenance of the desire to learn. "
I really like this phrase.

Unfortunatly I dont think I'd be a great help correcting as to me it sounds pretty good as it is.
I can translate it in Romanian though. If you'll ever need it translated in Romanian let me know, I will gladly do it.

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