LCM’s First Steps

Sheet Music Review

Of the accredited music exam boards in the UK, LCM (London College of Music) Exams offer the most diverse and perhaps most interesting range of graded and other assessments for piano players, and although perhaps less well-known than their main competitors ABRSM and Trinity College London, their brand new piano syllabus for 2018 may go a long way towards altering perceptions and the appeal of LCM.

As with ABRSM and TCL, LCM Exams offer a series of eight Grades, followed by a range of professional diploma exams. I was bowled over by the quality and content of the excellent new diploma anthology published back in the summer, which I reviewed here.

The new series of Piano Handbooks for the eight Grades are, in my view, equally stunning, and leave no doubt that LCM have set their sight on being the best in their field.

Not for me to review those books here, however, as I must openly state that I acted as a syllabus consultant for the 8 Grades, advising LCM on repertoire selection and editorial questions. Karen Marshall is therefore kindly stepping in, with an in-depth and independent review of those books for Pianodao.

In the meantime, I offer this review of LCM’s pre-grade one assessments, which are rather more extensive than the other examination boards’ …

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Get Set! Piano Characters

Collins Music have just made available a brand new FREE resource to accompany and support the Get Set! Piano series, written by Karen Marshall and Heather Hammond.

The latest additions to the stunning range of materials are a set of “Character” posters featuring the books’ popular Louis Legato, Suzie Staccato, Patrick Piano and Francesca Forte, as wonderfully illustrated by Julia Patton.

Each poster can be printed off as an A4 sheet to display in your teaching studio and use as a teaching and learning resource.

The complete set comes as a PDF file which Collins Music are generously offering on their own site, and by special permission, right here via Pianodao:

DOWNLOAD LINK.

Enjoy!

And many thanks indeed to the creators of Get Set! Piano and the lovely people at Collins Music.

You can also still find the full range of the Get Set! Piano downloads here.

And my review of the method books is here.

The Playful Piano Teacher

Are you a piano teacher? If so, let me ask you a question:

Do you enjoy your work? I mean – really enjoy it, all the time?

I’m fairly sure that most of us, if we are honest, will recognise that while we love our work in general, there are times where fatigue, impatience, distraction and even boredom can set in, even very fleetingly. And while we may feel a little guilty or inadequate in those moments, the reality is that in any job – however wildly fulfilling – we all experience “off days” and times when our heart isn’t quite so far into it as usual.

To counter the negative feelings that this can produce, I invite you to consider this wonderful quote from Buddhist teacher Haemin Sunim:

“Those who work in a playful, relaxed manner
tend to work efficiently and creatively;
Those who work non-stop, driven only by stress,
work without joy.”

Haemin Sunim, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down (2012)

In this post I am going to consider what it might mean to “work in a playful manner”, and how this could make all the difference for our students.

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The Musician’s Tool Bag

Guest Post by Roberta Wolff

In my previous post, which you can read here, I considered the importance of reflecting, both in teaching and learning. As such, it was a thoughtful and ‘serious’ article. However, that is not necessarily the best way to approach teaching reflection to our students. Nothing engages the student and gets the message across like a bit of creativity and fun.

This article, therefore, is focused on incorporating reflection as part of the lesson and practice process.

The trouble with reflection is that it often seems long-winded. All the amazing advice along the lines of think 10 times play once is actually very hard to carry out. Whereas, it is very easy to get locked into a cycle of thinking with your fingers – at least then it sounds like something is happening!

In teaching students to incorporate reflection, unconscious learning with the support of tools to interrupt the spell of trial and error practice is immensely productive and enjoyable.

The Musician’s tool bag, The Box and the Language of Reflection are all ways to unconsciously build in reflection time.

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Should we still teach students to hand-write music?

An article on the BBC News website last weekend highlighted an interesting controversy from the world of education: Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting?

The issue is back in the news because the US state of Illinois has passed a law requiring school students to learn “cursive” – joined-up handwriting – overriding the governor’s veto.

Apparently, elsewhere in the US and in some other countries, schools have dropped the skill from the curriculum or made it optional.

Certainly some teachers and parents are concerned that the introduction of joined-up handwriting can prove to be a significant roadblock in childrens’ education.

And the BBC article points out that few adults ever use joined-up handwriting, and most of us rarely write by hand at all, except for the occasional shopping list or post-it note. The block hand-writing of a young child is sufficient for this, given that most of us use electronic devices, apps and software for any serious written communication.

And of course, the same arguments about educational roadblocks and 21st-century relevance might be made with regard to teaching music pupils to write fluent, accurate and detailed music notation by hand:  Should we be teaching students to write music by hand at all?

Continue reading Should we still teach students to hand-write music?