To perform is more than just pressing keys as instructed through notation: it is to communicate without the burden of words.
The Great Pianists Summary & Study Guide
The process of learning to perform is a complicated one of empathy with the perceived intention of the composer, and of enculturation. Martha Argerich is a firm favourite for her transcendental technique, as are the Labeque sisters.
I saw the Labeque sisters perform live in Greece and their communication and poise were simply amazing. From my own teachers, Dimitri Toufexis taught me a lot about projecting phrasing through physical gestures, Danae Kara stepped in as my mentor at the early stages of my career and pushed for a totality of conception in extended works. Martino Tirimo and Elena Riu will always occupy a special place for being so flattering and incisive as duet coaches.
Natalie has also been active as a lecturer, piano teacher and examiner since the s. Since Natalie has been based in London, UK. Between and until , Natalie was artist teacher in residence at the American College of Greece as well as piano professor and examiner for Greek conservatoires of music including the National Conservatory of Greece.
The Great Pianists Summary & Study Guide
This beautiful and instructive letter was sent by pianist Dinu Lipatti to one of his students. Too often there is a tendency to focus first on the technical aspects of a piece, without considering the emotional content. I firmly believe that technique should serve the music , enabling us to play with greater expression and emotional depth: playing which exhibits only high-facility technique can be lifeless and mechanical.
Lipatti is considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th-century. I really ought to talk to you about it rather than write, as I should need thirty pages. In a very imperfect manner I could recapitulate the method which in stages guides us, as I believe, to the truth.
The work should be done with a clear head and one should beware of injecting any sentiment.
Finally comes the last phase, when the piece, mastered technically throughout, must be built up architecturally into its overall lines and played right through so that it may be viewed from a distance. And the cold, clear-headed and insensitive being who presided over the whole of the preceding work on the material of which the music is made, takes part in this eventual performance as well as the artist full of emotion, of spirit, of life and warmth who has recreated it in his mind and has now discovered a new and greater power of expression.
Forgive me for expressing myself so badly about something so solemn. I hope it will not seem incomprehensible to you. At the weekend, my father allowed me to choose music to listen to. This was a wonderful privilege because I was allowed to touch his precious records.
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She was perhaps my most inspirational role model because she played for her own enjoyment and seemingly without effort. In my mid-thirties, I found myself with a husband, two children and a deeply unsatisfying, yet very demanding, career. There was no doubt that my family needed more of my time, but I was equally certain that I needed creative and intellectual stimuli beyond pureed carrots and a 40 degree wash cycle! My husband asked me what I wanted to do when I was little.
My reasons for becoming a teacher were mostly about the practicalities of my own life. I started clarinet age 9 and piano age 10 with Becky, an enthusiastic graduate, who coached me to ABRSM Grade 5 on both instruments and introduced me to the alto saxophone. I adored Becky and worked hard to please her. My parents say she was an excellent role model and they rarely had to nag me to practice. Quite simply, she made learning music fun. My second piano teacher, Miss Faulkner, taught at my secondary school. We had musical interaction outside our regular piano lessons through the GCSE music course and other school activities.
I learned about music history and the theory and structure of music, which helped me understand what I was playing. This is where I find most technical memories including using variable rhythms to perfect tricky passages, word patterns to master poly-rhythms and using well known tunes to identify intervals aurally. Miss Faulkner used metaphors, analogies and examples and asked me to listen, observe and discover techniques for myself.
The foundations of my teaching style are influenced by Becky and Miss Faulkner — simple things like awarding stars and certificates, agreeing objectives with the students and parents and providing a progress reports at the end of each term, motivating students through the thrill of achievement, not through fear of being scolded or failing. Miss Faulkner taught me there is great value in exposing children to the wider possibilities of music making. The ingredients of musicianship can be both taught and learnt much more effectively when they are seen as being part of a whole.
The objective is to make each lesson much more like an organic process. The teacher sets the agenda, is pro-active rather than re-active, and there is a considerable amount of pupil-teacher interaction throughout. Simultaneous learning is still a relatively new concept for me and despite my best intentions I know I am still delivering hybrid lessons; combining simultaneous learning with more reactive teaching. Although some students have joined me at a more advanced stage, Michael is the most advanced student I have taught from the beginning of his piano learning experience and is one of my most dedicated students.
He presents well-developed technique, keen attention to detail and a love of performing. His meticulous preparation and assured stage presence result in naturally polished performances. Michael has a keen interest in jazz music; he often chooses music to work on independently for his own enjoyment. He has also experimented with improvisation, composition and duets.
This year, Michael has made a significant step forward in the way he communicates as he performs. As his technical ability continues to develop, he is learning notes and fingering quickly and consequently spends more time working on interpretation and musicality. He offers robust debate on the merits of his own interpretations and opinions and ultimately implements advice to good effect.
We are still on a journey together, as Michael continues to push me to discover new music and challenges for him. I look forward to his lesson every week! I try to shake up my lessons and do something different every now and then. Sometimes, the most creative ideas come from throwing away the rule book and trying something different and entirely unexpected.
Inspire Your Students
One memorable afternoon saw me teaching two brothers without saying a word. We did everything through the music, with call and response activities, working out scales by ear, and a constant pulse throughout the lessons. I was immediately struck by an ostinato bass line and resolved to adapt it for my students. In a mentoring session, Mary played the accompaniment and encouraged younger student John to improvise. I took over the bass line and encourage question and answer improvising between the two students. Mary immediately included some swing rhythms which John copied, seemingly subconsciously.
When I asked them to summarise their learning experiences, they talked about listening to one another, rhythmic variety and learning from others. I videoed this session and on review, the intense concentration coupled with the progress they made was quite remarkable. Sometimes, as a teacher, the best thing you can do is sit back and let things unfold without interfering.
That itself is improvising in its simplest form! There is one funny story that I simply must share. Several years ago, young beginner Graham was learning to play in triple time with a melody passing between two hands. He left the lesson having mastered the first line with the promise to learn the rest of the piece for homework. At the next lesson his performance was utterly unrecognisable; beyond the correct first note I could not connect the notes he was playing to the notes on the page.
His repeat was identical — there was no doubt he had been practising, but what? I was stumped, so I asked Graham to teach me to play the piece the way he played it. We swapped seats and he calmly and logically explained that the time signature was like a fraction; the 3 on the top meant he should play every note on the top stave three times and the 4 on the bottom meant that every bottom stave note should be played four times.
I believe this flawed logic was a result of learning to multiply fractions at school and playing from the grand stave for the first time! I have mixed feelings about teaching adults and have only a few in my timetable. I tend to avoid adult beginners completely as I had a series of mature students who were very impatient; they thought they were taking on something easy — after all children can do it! Where children can take time to understand the theory of notation, adults seem to pick it up very quickly.
Conversely, adult beginners are not as supple as children and they need to spend much more time developing finger control to deliver even rhythms and tone. I have a few adult returners who gave up in their teens and have returned to music in their 40s.
Susan is very driven; her husband has promised to buy her a grand piano if she can pass Grade 8 by age After 4 years tuition and at 45 she is about to take Grade 6 so she is well on the way.
These adult students are much more productive; they learn the notes independently so we can spend a lot more time working on the performance of a piece rather than just getting through the notes. I enjoy these lesson immensely as I can lead the students to work things out for themselves and we have interesting debates and discussions about how to improve their playing.
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There are still challenges of course; Frank refuses point blank to sight-read and against my strongest advice works towards every exam on the basis that he will score 0 for that part of the test. I expect my students to turn up on time, with their books and clean hands! Sometimes I have to settle for two out of three! In terms of technical ability and musical achievements my expectations are different for every student; they all have different priorities in their lives, they are different ages, at different schools, with different musical experiences at home and different learning styles.
But I do expect every student to try their best. I expect them to listen in lessons, read the notebook at home and try to improve each time they play. I spend a lot of time coaching students on effective practice strategies, which encompasses time management and fitting in practice around their other commitments, eliminating distractions, the value of reading the practice notebook, the importance of warming up and technical exercises, tools for approaching a new piece of music and techniques for developing the performance of a piece they have learnt.
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