By Taking Your Time, You Are Saving Your Time.

It is a common misconception among most children and some adults that by learning something very slowly is actually wasting time. It is difficult to explain why this is not true because they cannot see how the brain is absorbing the very slow signals that the eyes and hands are learning at a slow tempo. They only see the immediate results and because the end results are not yet achieved, it is easy to conflate the two issues. Speed of Learning vs. Time Completion.

One reason why going slow helps is because it gives more time for the brain to process information. You need to think of your brain as a computer. Like a computer, if you open 5 applications and are downloading video, streaming music and talking to friends all at the same time, the computer will get annoyed and become very slow because it cannot process all the information in the time you want it too. The same holds true for the brain. You must give the brain time to process the new information and then after you learn it, it will go into ‘cache’ mode and be able to quickly retrieve that new information in a moments notice, just like a computer that saves images on computer files so that it does not have to download them each time you encounter the image.

Another reason which is directly tied into the above is because going slowly allows you be more accurate in your attention to details. Finger numbers, note reading, articulation, dynamic markings, rhythm, correct breathing, all need to be learned. You have most likely heard before that after you learn something incorrectly, it takes many times practicing correctly to UNLEARN the learned behavior. The brain does not have a ‘DELETE’ command, so you basically need to begin reinforcing the old behavior with the new correct behavior. The brain will eventually come to recognize the new behavior. So you need to give the brain time to absorb the details correctly FIRST because if you move too fast and play wrong rhythms and notes, it will take much longer to rewrite the incorrect information you have already learned.

I hope it is clear that the brain is a tool you use to learn. It is not something that you have direct access too and not something you can simply reprogram to your liking. By moving too quickly, you have a very high chance of developing bad habits. It is far far more efficient to program the brain the FIRST time by learning things correctly the FIRST time. In order to do this properly, you must give the brain enough time to process the information and body movements you are trying to learn. If you succeed in both of these, then you will find that your brain will program itself with the new information and correct information much faster.

Many pianists can slowly and methodically play through a new piece while absorbing all the details on the page and developing a path of least resistance on the keys within a very short time. This is because they have trained their brain to move slowly and give it enough time to process all the new information. These pianists can then speed this information up at a very fast rate and before you know it, after even a couple play through’s, be able to play it at tempo. It seems to take beginners dozens upon dozens of times to play through a new piece before they are able to play it up to tempo. Most of the time they need to unlearn bad habits and they have been trained to use their brain at a slow tempo OR they refuse to do it thinking that they are wasting time.

So try it out. Begin playing through your new pieces at 25% tempo, then click your metronome (You are using a metronome, yes?) up a couple notches and play through it at 30%. Then 35%. Then 40%. If you stick with this, you should notice a big improvement. The most important thing is that if you begin making mistakes, you need to slow it down. Put it at 10% tempo if need be because remember – It’s far better to go slow and do it correctly then try it faster and learn bad behaviors.

‘Why Your Children Shouldn’t Take Formal Music Lessons’ – A Vivisection.

If you haven’t already, go check out Better Parenting (Dot!) Com to find the article that I am going to refer to here.

Chris Oldenburg, the author of the article, does not leave much in the way for interpretation with the Title wordage she uses.  ’Why Your Children Shouldn’t Take Formal Music Lessons’.

Shouldn’t.  Meaning should not.  In other words, she is writing an article to tell other parents not to encourage their children to participate in what she calls ‘Formal Music Lessons’

So what does she actually mean by ‘Formal Music Lessons’?  Well, let’s investigate.

She says: ”Actually, by formal lessons I am referring to those where the goals and the strategies are ultimately in the hands of the instructor – as in a class setting – but not necessarily.”

A bit suspicious if you ask me.  So, if I am reading this correctly – She says that ‘goals and strategies are ultimately in the hands of the instructor’

So , she seems to think that in College – The Professors there would be of the type that utilize that method.  So how does this destroy passion?  Of that, I do not know.  She seems to think that passion is this sort of fickle thing that can be so easily swayed by Gasp!  God forbid!  Some DIRECTION!

No, no, no.  Music should be FUN!  It should be a HOBBY!  It should be for pleasure ONLY!  If you get assigned a grade, it will destroy ALL the PASSION!

Is it just me, or is she trying to manipulate the readers sense of emotion by using the word ‘Passion’ in the wrong context?  Or is she, like many mothers, over exaggerating her child’s sense of self interest in something her child enjoys?  Or does she not understand what the word passion actually means?

So, if you are deeply in Love and Passionate towards another person, would she write an article entitled ‘Why your children shouldn’t get engaged into a formal union between two people’

She doesn’t say anything about being worried about her daughter pursuing pre-med in College.  Is her daughter not passionate about curing people?  About saving their lives through surgery?

Obviously not, or else the author would write an article entitled ‘Why Your children shouldn’t enter into formal medicine’ – With dodgy and irrational arguments that try to support it.  After all, many mothers get a heart felt warmth inside them when they cook a bowl of chicken noodle soup for their young child.  Taking a formal education will just simply destroy any and all interest to ever cook a bowl of chicken noodle soup ever again.

I’m not sure about you, but I for one wouldn’t want a surgeon operating on me that isn’t passionate about what they do.

I think it’s obvious what her article is about.  It isn’t an argument at all.  It’s an irrational fear that she has – And worse – She is trying to score some article points by sensationalizing it and writing to all families – To encourage them not to encourage THEIR children’s passion in music.

Or is it just passion in Music?  Is Music the ONLY thing you can be passionate about?

Dance?  Art?  Sex?  Science?

What if she wrote an article about the wonders of the Universe and Carl Sagan and suggested that it would be an absolute pity to have your child enter a formal education in Physics or Cosmology … because it would kill your passion?

I think by now, anyone reading this with an unbiased mind can see that her article is not an argument at all.  It’s pure fear.  Ignorant fear at that, because she apparently doesn’t know much about how ‘Formal Lessons’ are conducted in College Institutions.

Or what a correlation is.

She says: “Research shows clear connections between learning to play music and positive brain development in children. Study after study comes to the same conclusion: children who learn to play musical instruments are more likely to have larger vocabularies, higher reading skills, and even increased abilities to convey emotions verbally. When it comes to children with learning disabilities, learning to play musical instruments also enhances their cognitive functions.

There seems to be endless lists of the benefits of music training for children, including increased memory skills and attention spans. So why don’t I want my daughter to have formal piano lessons while at college? Perhaps it is my rebellious education side, the home school mom in me that says that her piano playing abilities are where they are now because she wanted them to improve, not because she was receiving a grade for her efforts. Or it could be that while the studies show that learning to play music is beneficial, I have not found one study to say that kids need rigorous lessons in order to see the benefits.”

Correlation.  Not Connection.  Ever sit back for a second and ponder why there is a Correlation rather than a Causation?

Perhaps because middle class and wealthier families are the ones able to finance private music instruction?  Perhaps it isn’t the music instruction – but the formality of it?

How many families do you know about in the inner city ghetto  play recordings of Mozart while their infants sleep at night?  How many of those families attend their local Orchestra events? How many of them are able to finance music lessons?

Let’s ask the question in another way:  ”Do you really think music is the ONLY benefit of a child living under a middle class and wealthy family that appreciates a strong musical education?

So if you take poverty level families and play Mozart in their infants cribs – You think they are going to have a higher chance of attending Yale or Harvard?

I’m just going to throw this out there.  Perhaps it’s the hard work and dedication of the Private Music Instructors – Those of us that mostly have gone through a formal Education in a College setting – (If you are going to accuse me of being inept at evaluating your article with the word ‘Parent’ in it simply because I am not one, then I will throw it right back at you – That you are inept at evaluating anything to do with Formal Music Education because you never went through a College Music degree – funny how that works – Your argument can again be turned around back on you.) and are still so passionate about it that we make it our lifes mission to help children and adults learn music – And it’s not the music itself that creates those increased mental aerobics – But the Instructors who have been trained through over a dozen years of music study – And Thousands of hours of intense studying and mental aerobics. That we are the ones who know how to draw it out and how to project these traits and encourage our students to develop these abilities – THROUGH music – Not BECAUSE of it.

You wouldn’t have these benefits that you speak so highly of if every family encouraged their children not to follow their passion of music.  Why is that?

Because there wouldn’t be any Private Music Instructors to teach these benefits.

It’s that simple.

 

Oh No, The Horror … ! Or: Being Forced To Take Private Piano Lessons.

Ok, so here is a new post. Not only because I wanted to include this bright photo from such an adorably terrified little gal, but because I literally laughed out loud reading this rant about the horror of piano lessons.

Well, you could say that she is being overly dramatic. And if you did say that, I might perhaps agree. But I think there is a deeper issue here – Well of course this young girl has issues of her own – but don’t we all? The main point she is trying to make is that she isn’t having FUN practicing. I actually empathize with her. I truly do and I’ll tell you why.

When I first started studying piano, it was forced upon me at the age of 12 by my Grandmother. That was 12 years ago and the teacher was charging $15 / half hour of lessons. I took half hour lessons for 4 years with this teacher. Here is the reason why I hated lessons and hated practicing.

Because the teacher was awful. Not just awful … but she had absolutely no right teaching piano. None. If you want to hear a horror story, keep reading!

After 4 years of lessons with this lady, I did not know what the following was.

A chord.
A scale. No, not the C major scale, either.
I never heard the words ‘piano technique’. Ever. (Except I remember her telling me to ‘act like I was holding a tennis ball’)
I didn’t know any other theory except basically how to read notes and how to count basic rhythms.

This is not a lie. When I was fortunate to attend a master class with Reynaldo Reyes at Towson University, I was terrified of playing in front of someone who was so highly distinguished. I had been working on this little piece, the Revolutionary Etude, by Chopin. (You may have heard of it.)

Well, for about 6 months or so, it was the ONLY piece I was practicing. I loved that piece. I was obsessed with learning it. Too bad my current teacher had absolutely no clue what she was doing with me and the piece. Lessons comprised of me playing through it – then pointing out a few places where she ‘thought’ I played a wrong note – and to highlight ‘p’ and ‘f’ dynamic markings.

So I got it somewhat together – Horribly together, but together you could say. I played it in front of this man, Reynaldo – and the entire audience roared with clapping and hollering – apparently they liked it. Then came the best part.

Reynaldo, within about 10 minutes, taught me more damned piano technique, piano theory, musicianship, and practice methods than I ever learned within 4 years of private piano lessons with my first teacher.

Thus sparked my eager interest into the world of piano. I have loved it ever since.

Lesson of the story? Parents, if you are forcing your child to study piano and they obviously are hating it, get away from your current teacher as fast as you can and go find another one that either.

1.) Has a different approach with your child.

or

2.) Takes time with concern as to what your child wants to play in regards to piano songs.

I am willing to bet a good sum of money that this young girl didn’t hate piano. She probably hated her mother for forcing her to do something she didn’t enjoy because her teacher was not engaging her and making lessons exciting, challenging and FUN.

Call me crazy, but as a private piano teacher, I’ll be the first to say that not every child resonates with every teacher. But I do believe that if you want your child to study piano, then take the time to find a teacher that can make piano lessons a bit less than torture.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to subscribe and share some link love. ;)

Parents: Are you Letting Your Child Practice on Frankenstein’s Piano?

There is one thing that is every piano teachers nightmare if their studio policy accepts requests from families to teach their children in their own home.  No, it is not finding out that Hannibal Lecter resides within the walls.  They are not even afraid of the rickety staircase that leads down into the dimly lit dungeon that might be your basement.  No, not that either.  It is to discover that instead of having a piano to work on … they are shown an antique looking piece of furniture that has a peculiar resemblance to the piano Frankenstein might have owned.  It also appears that it could very well be the happy home to a troupe of little mice.  Or cockroaches.  Or perhaps a poisonous spider.  Or … well, you get the idea.  Unless you may be the one to own such a piece of furniture, then you may need some enlightening!  That’s why I wrote this article, after all.

So, how do you know if your piano is the same piano from that old horror classic, “Frankenstein”?  You know that scene when Frankenstein is walking down the steps and in the corner is that ancient looking piano with dust and cobwebs all over it?  Well, neither do I, but I am sure there was a piano somewhere in that house!  It was a fairly large house, after all.

So if you are a bit confused whether or not Frankenstein might have played on your piano, here is a little checklist that may help you decide for yourself.

1.)  When you press the keys down, do they willingly come back up?

2.)  When you press the keys down, do they make a sound?

3.)  Can you actually press the keys down?

4.)  Would you say “NO!” if you were asked “Does a small to medium sized rodent live inside your piano?”

5.)  Have you had a piano technician touch your piano since it’s been in your home?

If you have answered no to any of these, or perhaps to all 5 … who you gonna call?  No, not the Ghostbusters!  Yes, that’s correct!  Your local and friendly certified piano technician.  There are actually these people who goes through years of training to learn how to work and fix up pianos.  They get paid to make your practice piano better.

I know what you’re thinking.  This is going to cost you money.  Well, certainly, that is true. Let me try to explain why this is so imperative to finance the job.  It is absolutely the most awful experience for a beginner student to have to study on such an instrument.  Besides, you are already spending a decent bit of your income in order to provide your child with a premium music education are you not?  If you repair your piano, that money going to the teacher will become much more valuable if your child has a decent instrument to study on.

Think of this another way.  Would you send your child to a tennis camp sporting a wooden racquet that has broken strings, tennis shoes with missing laces, a tennis bag with a broken strap and of which doesn’t zip all the way, topped off with tennis balls that are anything but spherical?  Then why would you finance a premium music education with the same equivalent-quality piano to study on?

So contact your piano teacher and ask them to help you find a quality piano technician in your area. They will be more than happy to do so!

Frankenstein himself might even say “Thhahhhnnnnkk Yoouuuu”

Top 10 Ways To Be a Zen Master at Practicing Piano.

Let’s face it. Practicing is just so much more fun and rewarding when you see progress. If you don’t see progress , then you will feel that you are wasting time. You will feel agitated and annoyed. This can also quite easily cause body pain if you are tense from the built up frustration if you practice for extended periods of time. Below, I wish to compose a list of efficient practicing methods – from a psychology point of view. Note that I am not a psychologist, but these ideas are pretty basic and yet I feel they are often overlooked by a great many beginner and amateur students (and of course professionals as well!) Being a student of piano and a piano teacher, I will relay the information in relationship to the instrument I work with every day. These same tactics can apply to anything. So let’s get started!

1.) Clear your mind and be kind to yourself. The most important of the 10 is to be able to clear your mind of built up emotional frustration when you are not achieving your practice goals. I have also fallen prey to the emotional torment I allow myself to endure if something is not going my way. You need to relinquish your pride and not be so hard on yourself. Don’t judge yourself for being a failure. Don’t get frustrated at yourself for not being able to do something immediately. Be kind to yourself. This will help in so many ways for long term goals. It will also relax your mind and your body and you will be more focused and better equipped for efficient practicing.

2.) Stop doing the same thing Over and Over and Over when it is NOT working! If it isn’t working, it is never going to work UNLESS you approach the issue from a different angle. Perhaps it’s a bad fingering, you are too tense, your mind is on other things. Perhaps you simply haven’t practiced slowly enough. Whatever it is, don’t internalize it as it being your fault. Be objective about it, step away from the piano and just breathe. Enjoy Life for a few seconds before you attempt to tackle the problem again.

3.) Isolate, Isolate, Isolate. One of the biggest blunders of practicing is to start playing from the beginning of the piece every time you make a mistake. Don’t even start at the beginning of the phrase. It is essential that you isolate the problem. Find the exact measure you are having difficult with and practice that ALONE many times. Put it back into context within the phrase and try again. If it still fails, isolate the measure again. Rinse and Repeat. Make this one of your highest priorities.

4.) Slow practice. When I say Slow, I mean Ssslllllloooooooowwwww! This is a difficult thing for the mind to accept because its thinks it is wasting time by practicing slowly. But in the long term, that slow practice will result in achieving your end goal at a faster pace. In other words, You’ll be SAVING time by TAKING your time. Muscle memory works much more efficiently at a slower tempo as well.

5.) Perfection doesn’t last. Have you ever done something seemingly perfectly at the end of a practice session only to perform pathetically the next day? Well, get over it! You need to see the humor in things. This is actually pretty funny. The body just says ‘screw you’ and does it’s own thing after a good nights sleep. Establishing a new technique and mastering a new passage takes dedicated work day in and day out. Just laugh it off, and get back to work.

6.) Red Flags. When you begin to sense frustration building, you need to learn to move to something else. You need to learn to disengage your emotions and if you can’t do that then just get a drink of water and take a few deep breaths. Shake your hands out. Jump up and down a few times. These 3 things will relax your body and take your mind off the issue. Go back and approach from a different angle!

7.) Do mental practice in a relaxed and comfortable environment. If you can hear the piece being played, then set the room temperature, light a scented candle and lay on your sofa or bed. Close your eyes and really focus on your goal and different angles to achieve it. You could also take a hot bath every day and concentrate on your goals as well. Again, be kind to yourself.

8.) A change of routine. My first note is to not abuse this strategy, as a consistent routine can be one of the strongest weapons in your arsenal. But just like in many things, one can get bored easily. Change it up. If you have a certain routine, mix it all up so the order is different. Study from the back of the piece , forward. Practice the piece so all the staccato passages are legato and legato passages are staccato. Play loudly where it’s supposed to be soft and soft where it’s supposed to be loud. This will be a simple routine change that still forces you to think.

9.) Have more short term goals than long term goals. Instead of having a goal such as ‘finish this piece within 2 months’, change it to ‘Finish this page by next week.’ With this approach, you will achieve more gratification by completing many smaller goals than feeling like your long term goal is just taking forever. This works. Try it out!

10.) Accept your imperfections. Once you can achieve this very important task, you will be better equipped to deal with your imperfections in a new light. Embrace your imperfections. Take this as a challenge to bettering yourself. When you accept your imperfections, it means you’re thinking objectively. You can more easily treat your imperfections not as a failure of yourself , but as the horizon to an entirely new landscape that you have’t yet discovered!

So that ends my list. Before you begin to tackle this list, remember to Breathe. Relax. And most importantly, be kind to yourself!

Pets or No Pets?

I would like to also start this blog off by asking a question that has always given me mixed feelings. It seems to me that most children ADORE pets. The furrier , the better. But I also believe they can be extremely distracting. I once had a student , age 6 (and a half she emphatically says!) who wasn’t concentrating during the lesson. This was new as she seemed to always be relatively focused for her age. I asked her what was wrong and she whimpered “I … I … didn’t get to see Harold when I walked in ..” with a very sad expression and depressing tone. Harold is of course the name of my over sized and super friendly cat. I didn’t realize the full effect of how some children view pets until then.

Another story.

My studio is set up in my Grandmothers house currently and she used to have a pure white dog named Scout. Another young student of age 7 would always want to play with Scout after the lesson. If she didn’t accomplish this apparently important task before she left , I would be informed about it the next lesson. ”Mr. Dustin , where was Scout last time? I didn’t get to play with him.” , again with a sad expression and depressing tone.

It was a very sad day for her when I had to inform her that Scout “Passed away” , as the little dog developed some sort of disease inside his organs and the vet couldn’t save him. Her mother told me that she found her daughter crying multiple times because she wouldn’t be able to see Scout anymore.

Has anyone else ever had a child express themselves like this before after not having made interaction with their furry little friend before the lesson? Or are these seemingly rare experiences that don’t occur too frequently?

So my question is:

“Pets or no pets?”

Top 20 Little Known Ways to Advertise Your Piano Studio

Yes , it just so happens there are 20 of them … !

First thing is First. You need a website. Well … you don’t NEED one , but trust me. It helps. A lot. So after you get a website (And a Blog if you want) you will need to go out there and Market yourself! Tenacity is the key and these 20 tips are a Sure Fire way to get people to notice. No , no , no … to FORCE them to notice you. So here we go!

1.) Create T shirts with your Studio Logo and Website URL and hand them out to the Homeless. Everyone will just LOVE your charitable style and possibly sign up for lessons.

2.) Offer the First Month of lessons absolutely FREE. For good measure, offer to pay potential clients for taking lessons. At least you’ll have a full studio?

3.) Design a new blog every week for an entire year. Link them all to each other and most importantly , link the homepage of your teaching studio. This will give you CraZy page rank!

4.) Ever consider plastering your vehicle with your Studio Website URL and Logo? Don’t just stop there. Apply this same method to your House. Try your Lawnmower as well!

5.) Assign Homework to your students. Tell them they need to hand out flyers to all their little school friends. Bribe them with candy if they show signs of declining. Offer them a brand new PS3 if you still can’t get them to crack.

6.) Custom design a 4 foot by 3 foot magnet and connect it to your shopping cart. Frequenting a busy supermarket during peak times is the best approach to gain Clients.

7.) Better yet, tattoo your Website URL on your forehead. Walk up close to everyone you see and ask them if they can read it well enough. This will guarantee LOTS of visitors!

8.) Pens , Pens, Pens. Thousands of them. Take out a small loan for $5,000 and get as many as you can. Hand them out to your local restaurants. The servers will LOVE free pens to use.

9.) Set your cat on fire and then dunk it in a bathtub full of water. Make sure you video tape this. Put this video on You Tube and end the video with your Website URL. This may get you in prison , but it’s definitely worth the risk.

10.) Better yet, purchase a 9 foot Steinway Concert Grand and set THAT on fire. Follow the same steps as the above. Send the video to all the major newspaper companies. People love CraZy antics and will be eager to see who you are and learn about you.

11.) Get a pet dog and walk him / her frequently in populated areas. Supply the little pet an outfit with your Website URL on it. The key to this is making sure it is an EXACT match to your outfit as well.

12.) Learn how to juggle and yo-yo at the same time. After mastering this art, do it in street corners all around densely populated areas. Children will love this and want to learn how. HINT: Invite them to take piano lessons as well … !

13.) Call other local piano teacher Studios and ask them to refer business to you. If they decline , beg them. If they still decline , consider further aggregated harassment until they give in.

14.) Enroll in piano classes with the busiest studios in your area. Impersonate a beginner. Get as many Teacher rosters as you can and call EVERY parent and inform them about how awful their current teacher is. Invite them to your studio instead!

15.) Find out the dates and locations of student recitals in your area. Picket the entrance and protest. Your sign should show your Website URL.

16.) Simply go door to door with pamphlets and tell them that “Jesus Saves those who can play Gospel / Hymn piano music”. Speak in an eerie and monotone voice. You might get a few ‘converts’ this way.

17.) Stand out on a street corner and make up a fake charity sign. Write your URL on the sign as well. You’ll get free money AND possible new students who think you are charitable.

18.) Get quality lipstick and trace your URL on all the most expensive looking cars at your local restaurants and supermarkets. They’ll have to notice you then!

19.) Donate $100 to every charity organization in your area. They might link to your site. Maybe …

20.) If you get completely desperate after trying the above 19, try this for a little edge. Post the most unwelcoming and heartless reviews on any and all competition sites within 50 miles. Those potential clients may look elsewhere and find your site instead!

Oh and make sure you start a blog in order to write a ‘List of the top 20 little known Secrets to Grow your Studio’ as your first Blog post. Compose the list while you are tired after a long day of teaching and piano studies. 2:00 am is a preferable time.

Try out these methods and please let me know if they work. ;)