10 Ways to turn “I can’t” into “I can”

Guest Author: Frances Wilson

Whenever we have a thought or physical sensation thousands of neurons are triggered and get together to form a neural network in the brain.

“Experience-dependent neuroplasticity” is the scientific term for this activity of continual creation and grouping of neuron connections in our brains which takes place as a result of our personal life experiences. With repetitive thinking, the brain learns to trigger the same neurons each time, and neuroscientists and psychologists have found that the brain can be “trained” to build positive neural traits from positive mental states.

The trouble is, the brain tends towards the negative and is very bad at learning from good experiences and very good at learning from bad ones. This negativity bias was very important in keeping our ancestors alive during times of great hardship and danger, but in our 21st-century brains it can be a block that prevents positive experiences from becoming inner strengths which are built into our neural structure.

As musicians most of us are very familiar with “the inner critic”, that destructive voice within that can sabotage a practise session or performance and damage our self-esteem with negative self-talk.

Continue reading 10 Ways to turn “I can’t” into “I can”

Confessions 8: The Final Scene

Guest Author: Simon Reich “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 8

Although movies can’t always finish with a happy ending, I thought we’d round up this series with a question that could give teachers a chance to give a positive finale.

“I have a few secondary school teachers as friends. They often remark how they hardly ever hear from former students. So as the last question, Have you ever had a response from a past student, years down the track? Something that really warmed your heart?”

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Confessions 7: How wide are piano teacher’s job descriptions?

Guest Author: Simon Reich “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 7

How wide are piano teachers job descriptions?

Continue reading Confessions 7: How wide are piano teacher’s job descriptions?

Confessions 6: Are Exams helpful?

Guest Author: Simon Reich “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 6

This controversial question needed to be asked.

“Do you feel the current system of testing and grading of students is helpful to budding creative musicians? If not, what would you consider as an alternative?”

Continue reading Confessions 6: Are Exams helpful?

Confessions 5: Student listening tastes

Guest Author: Simon Reich “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions. In this series he shares their answers…

Question 5

This question was born from an ugly personal experience I had as a child. At a local monthly musical society concert, a classical guitar teacher had found out his most gifted pupil had bought an electric guitar and was dabbling with it in his own time. Admittedly the guitar teacher was an older man, but he publicly tore strips off his prized student and humiliated him in front of the whole crowd. He then banished his pupil and told him not to return to lessons until he’d given up the electric guitar.

It’s in this context, I asked the following question.

“What would be your reaction to a student confessing they played synthesizers in a simple dance music style of playing? How would you feel about them listening to electronic music or heavy metal style genres?”

Continue reading Confessions 5: Student listening tastes

Confessions 4: Choosing music with each student

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 4

When I had lessons as a young man, my teacher had a set, worn path of selected pieces, so the answers to this question interested me no end.

“Are the selection of music to be learnt, important to maintaining the interest of a student? Do you tailor the music to each student?”

Continue reading Confessions 4: Choosing music with each student

Confessions 3: Naturally gifted students?

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions. In this series he shares their answers…

Question 3

Being someone who had a natural ear for music and could play back most things I heard, this was a question I was keen to hear the answers to –

“Do you feel some students have a natural gift in music? How does that manifest?”

Continue reading Confessions 3: Naturally gifted students?

Confessions 2: Are teenagers difficult to teach?

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions…
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 2

This question was born of my own frustration as a teenager, and seeing the skill level I wanted to be at and the skill level I was achieving.

“Are mid to late teens a difficult age bracket to teach? Why?”

Continue reading Confessions 2: Are teenagers difficult to teach?

Confessions 1: How many continue to play

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions. In this series he shares their answers…

In my previous article “Confessions of a piano student”, I stepped through my personal journey growing up learning music, which led me to believe I was mismanaged by my teacher, who possibly didn’t have a grasp of the natural musical gift I already had, or how to assist in its growth.

So it was with great interest that I conducted an open interview with today’s piano teachers to see how the prevailing thought in musical education has changed since my childhood.

Continue reading Confessions 1: How many continue to play

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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