Friday, July 30, 2010

MAKING YOUR CHILD SMARTER

I read a great article from Forbes Magazine about piano lessons and being smart. Please follow this link and review this valuable information.

http://www.forbes.com/2004/07/15/cx_0715health_print.html

Thursday, July 1, 2010

TO CURVE OR NOT TO CURVE....

      There is a long standing debate among piano students and teachers about whether or not a piano player should play with curved fingers or flat fingers.  There are many famous piano performers who play with flat fingers and many who claim that curved fingers are a must. I have done a little research and come up with the following conclusions:

1-GOD GAVE US KNUCKLES FOR A REASON
     I think that there is a reason that our fingers are shaped the way they are. If I play with flat fingers, I am not using the natural shape of my fingers.  It makes sense to me to choose a finger shape that is natural. Flat is not a natural shape for fingers.

2-THE DESIGN OF STRENGTH
     I like to tell piano students about engineering students who build bridges made out of balsa wood. They build many bridges of different shapes- flat, round, arched, and square. Then they put force on the bridges. The bridge that holds the most bricks without breaking wins a prize. Go to http://www.balsabridge.com/recholder.html and note the shape of the bridge that holds the current record. It is exactly the same shape as a finger. I think that shape of a curved finger allows you to put more weight into your playing.  It creates a more powerful sound. 

3-THE DESIGN OF SPEED
     I have noticed that those who play with curved fingers are able to play faster. When you curve your fingers, your hand and wrist are naturally higher. If you are playing a scale that requires you to cross your fingers under, there is more room for you to move under your hand if your wrist is a bit higher.

4-THE RECOMMENDED DESIGN
     I like to send my students to take lessons from my friend, Marilyn.  Marilyn has a degree in music pedagogy.  She teaches with the curved finger method.  On line research notes that most piano students and teachers are using this method.

5-THE EASIEST DESIGN
     When a student is playing at a high level, they may learn that changing the curve of your fingers, can also change the sound.  Using more of the pad of your finger and lengthening your finger when you play, softens the sound.  A curved finger gives a stronger, firmer sound.

     If a student learns to play with flat fingers and they get to the point in their study that they need a curved position, it is very difficult for a student to change from flat to curved.  It is easy for a student to change from a curved hand position to a flat position.  I think this is because if you play flat-fingered, you have not exercised and strengthened the finger muscles you need to play the piano in a curved position.  Curved fingers have strong muscles that can stretch and straighten- flat or curved- without any problem.  

6-DESIGN DESCRIPTION
   Here is a description and picture of a natural curved hand: 



    1.Slightly indented wrist in neutral position.


    2.Top knuckles highest part of hand allowing full finger movement.

    3.Curved fingers position allows for greater piano proficiency and 50% reduction in force over extended finger position.

    4.Wrist position indicates that the elbow is away from the body, creating natural position for the wrist.

    5-Play without wrists bouncing up and down.

7-LEARNING THE DESIGN
     One of the most difficult things a piano teacher needs to do is to get students to curve their fingers.  I remember my piano teacher used a ruler.  She taped the back of my hand with the ruler whenever I forgot to curve.  I learned to curve very quickly. 
 
     I did not like the ruler so I have another, nicer way to teach students how to curve.  I call it 'piano physical therapy'.   If I have a student who can't hold their finger in a curved position, I hold their knuckles for them while they play.  This invasion of personal space also encourages students to curve on their own and it is less painful than a ruler. 
    
     I also find that positive reinforcement and bribery helps students to curve their fingers. My friend, Marilyn, told me that constant reminders about curving also help.  As a parent practices with achild, they should encourage them to curve their fingers as much as possible.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A PIANO RECITAL

Playing in a piano recital can be a wonderful experience for a student or it can be a frightful experience that will give nightsmares for years.  What can a teacher, parent or student do to prepare to make a piano recital a positive experience?  Here are a few hints:

1-PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE-  The best way to remove fear about performing is to be prepared.  Spend as much time as possible praciticing the recital song.  Never just practice a song once.  When you sit down to play a recital song, commit to practicing the song at least 3 times.  Do this as many times a week as possible. You must do something 3 times before it sticks in your brain.  Playing a song once and quitting is like never practicing at all.  Your brain will not retain anything.

2-THIS IS THE PLACE-  Take a student to the recital hall several days ahead and let them practice on the piano that they will be using.  Each piano has its own feel and touch.  Becoming familiar with how the piano feels will also help the student to be calm.

3-ALWAYS ON STAGE-  A student should be encouraged to play his song in front of others before he gets to the recital.  He can play in front of friends and family members.  Have a family recital before the teacher's piano recital so that the student can get used to the feeling of always being on stage.

4-GOING BANANAS-  The minerals in bananas are known to have a calming effect.  Bananas are known to even lower blood pressure.  Make sure that your student eats a banana about 1/2 an hour before the performance.
5-BRIBERY- I never had a problem bribing children to help them have the courage to hang in there for the rough road that leads to a piano recital.  The reward could be a family trip to Baskin Robbins after the recital. It could also be cash, presents or a shopping spree at the local music store.

6--FOLLOW UP- Continue to encourage your student to play their recital song even after them that recital.  Give strong positive feed back even if you have heard this particular song too many times before.  Encourage the student to continue to play the song even after the recital. 

A positive recital experience is a great way to build self confidence and self esteem.  Playing in a recital is the best natural 'high'.

-Cari Horton

Friday, February 26, 2010

GREAT WEB SITES

I found two more great web sites for piano students and their parents. 

PRACTICING ADVICE
Jan Taylor is a piano teacher in Washington state.  I love her advice on helping your child to practice.  Be sure to read her great article:    http://www.kitsappianolessons.com/practicetips.htm

AN APPRECIATION OF CLASSICAL MUSIC
If you haven't seen the series, "From the Top at Carnegie Hall" on PBS, be sure to watch it with your children.  The show has been on public radio for several years.  The television series and the radio show feature some of America's most talented musicians ages 8 to 18 years of age.  It is a great way to teach appreciation of classical music.  The show's second season starts the first of May.  You can watch episodes online at:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/fromthetop/pages/about-the-series/

Friday, January 29, 2010

MORE WEB SITES

Try these great web sites!

PRACTICING WITHOUT VIOLENCE
I love this article titled: How To Get Your Child to Practice…Without Resorting to Violence!!!
     http://www.kenfoster.com/Articles/Practicing.htm

     You can buy the author’s book at Amazon:

     http://www.amazon.com/Child-Practice-Without-Resorting-Violence/dp/1555173144

PRACTICE CHARTS
If you would like to use practice charts at home, here is a great web page. The practice charts are cute and fun.      http://makingmusicfun.net/htm/printit-oliver-sticker-practice-chart.htm


CLASSICAL MUSIC
This is a fun web site to teach your children about classical music.    http://www.classicsforkids.com/

THE BENEFITS OF PIANO LESSONS
A nice article about how piano lessons benefit children: 
     http://piano-lesson-software-review.toptenreviews.com/five-ways-piano-lessons-benefit-children.html

Total Pageviews