Piano Teaching in the Age of Video Conferencing

Guest Article by Mark Polishook

This essay is about my experience teaching piano and jazz improvisation to adult students on Skype. Right now Skype is a standard technology for online instrumental instruction. But there are alternatives, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Oovoo among them.

We call the medium Skype. We say we’re Skyping. But, really, it’s consumer-level video conferencing.

Marshall McLuan some years ago offered the medium as answer to what’s the message?

My question now:

How does video conferencing shape teaching and learning?

Three immediate answers on the positive side:

  1. It moves teaching from the local to global.
  2. It enlarges the pool of teachers from which students can select
  3. More stylistic diversity and specialities come from a larger, global teaching pool.

Are there downsides?

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Accentuate the Positive: Music and Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Guest Article by Frances Wilson

What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) was created in California in the 1970s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. The name makes a connection between the neurological processes (“neuro”), language (“linguistic”), and behavioural patterns learned through experience (“programming”) which can be altered or harnessed to achieve specific goals in life. Popularly known as “the study of human excellence”, NLP uses the criterion “does this work?”, and gives us the tools and processes to deconstruct how we do things to discover the key elements of a positive strategy that enables us to do something more successfully. Equally, it can highlight negative issues and help us to discard unsuccessful actions and impulses.

In NLP the word “strategy” is used to describe how we organise sensory representations – external and internal images, sounds, sensations and feelings. This determines how successful we are in doing something, assuming we have the relevant skills.

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Tobin Mueller and the Influence of Illness on his Music

Guest Author Frances Wilson interviews pianist Tobin Mueller

Composer and pianist Tobin Mueller has recently completed a trilogy of recordings in which he explored three eras of Western music through adaptive arrangements, reinvention and original composition. Each album took one year to develop. The Masterworks Trilogy included jazz interpretations and new works based on:

  1. the Impressionists (Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Fauré, Carpenter)
  2. the Baroque period (J.S. Bach), and most recently
  3. the Romantic movement (Frederic Chopin).

The albums by title are :

  1. Impressions of Water and Light
  2. Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller”, and
  3. Of Two Minds: The Music of Frederic Chopin and Tobin Mueller”.)

Not only have these double-CD albums highlighted the elements of modernity found in these forebears, they have allowed Mueller to discover a personal kinship with each composer.

Tobin’s personal journey has also been colored by the challenges of dealing with a compromising illness. This relationship between the composer and his illness is what we wanted to discuss…

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Jazzin’ About the Year

Sheet Music Review

“Take yourself on a musical journey through the seasons with Pam Wedgwood’s Easy Jazzin’ About the Year: a treasure trove of original and favourite tunes connected with occasions throughout the year.”

Easy Jazzin’ About the Year, new from Pam Wedgwood and published by Faber Music, might just be the perfect book of pieces for children learning the piano who are around UK Grade 1-2 level. Let’s take a look!

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It’s a New Day, and a New Week

The Fermata Series

An inspirational quote to start the new week –

And while you read, you might also enjoy this original, hope-filled piano composition from a while ago…

Here’s the quote – very simple, but have a good think about each sentence before skipping ahead…

The writer talks about a “New Day”, but at the start of the week perhaps we can apply it to the “New Week” with even more benefit!

“Every morning means a fresh start on things.
If yesterday was trying and exhausting, today is a given opportunity to do something different.
If yesterday was full of triumph and satisfaction, today is a free chance to go further.
All too often we wake up, think of our schedules, and assume that we must act according to the same dull script. We need not.
If we find what is unique to each day, we will have freshness and the greatest fulfillment possible.”

Deng Ming-Dao,  365 Tao Daily Meditations (1992, Harper Collins)

Have a unique and wonderful day – and week ahead!

Fermata-Series

10 Important Memory Tricks for Pianists

Guest Article by Sofie Kay

Have you ever suddenly forgotten your PIN? It happened to me once. I was standing in line with a friend who said something to me just as I was about to enter my number, and it suddenly went out of my head. I couldn’t remember those 4 digits until about a year later! It was a bizarre experience.

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Effective Musical Learning

My article Sound before Symbol: Lessons from History has been one of the most popular and widely welcomed posts here on the Pianodao site. If you haven’t seen it already please have a read, because this post is in effect an addendum and update to that one.

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“Mindfulness: The Piano Collection”

Sheet Music Review

In his practical, in-depth article Is Mindfulness relevant to piano playing? guest author Doug Hanvey made a brilliant and thoroughly practical case for linking the two.

It’s great to now see that case amplified in a brand new publication from Faber Music – Mindfulness: The Piano Collection.

According to Faber Music:

“Mindfulness: The Piano Collection offers a way to bring mindfulness and playing the piano together by sharpening musical focus and establishing the pianist’s attention in the present moment. The carefully selected repertoire, which is aimed at intermediate level players, is presented with guidance on how to bring mindfulness into piano playing.”

So what does the book include, and how is it different to other piano anthologies?

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Piazzolla: finding his unique voice

Nadia_Boulanger_1925Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) was a French composer, conductor and teacher who is notable for having taught many of the most distinguished musicians of the 20th century – including Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Quincy Jones, John Eliot Gardiner, Elliott Carter, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Virgil Thomson, Daniel Barenboim, Philip Glass and Astor Piazzolla.

Recalling his first meeting with Boulanger in his autobiography,  Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) wrote:

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Relax with Beautiful Pieces

Sheet Music Review

For those who play the piano purely for pleasure (rather than for certificates or prizes) the latest series of publications from Schott Music will be of special interest. The Relax With series is aimed at intermediate to advanced pianists who play “mostly at home for their own enjoyment”.

According to British concert pianist Samantha Ward, who put these selections together :

“Schott Music’s Relax With series is designed to help you unwind with some of the piano repertoire’s greatest works, alongside lesser known pieces from the Baroque period right through to the 20th century. I have tried to include as many different styles and techniques as possible, whilst remaining within the boundaries of ‘relaxing’ pieces of music.”

So let’s take a closer look…

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