Using Rounds in Piano Teaching

Guest post by Karen Marshall

I was first introduced to singing rounds as a very young child at Primary school…

It was much later in life that I realised their potential for instrumental use. I can remember being quite miffed that – even though I learnt three instruments – I’d not played one round during any of my instrumental lessons.

I try to incorporate rounds into my piano teaching along with using them constantly in my choir and whole school singing assemblies (I work as a music specialist in a Primary School along side piano teaching).

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Piano Lessons: Dealing with Anxiety

I am sure that most piano teachers will be alert to the fact that some pupils coming to lessons are anxious. This post will look at some reasons for that, and offer some suggestions that might help normalise lessons.

The article is written for any player who has ever said – and any teacher who has ever heard – the words:

“It was perfect when I practised it at home this morning…”

Clearly, in order for student and teacher to make the most of any piano lesson we all want to move beyond this point!

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Does piano playing make children smarter?

Responding to a new research study.

In recent years a succession of academic papers, blog posts and media articles have pushed the view that learning a musical instrument can have the knock-on effect of essentially making children smarter.

One line of thinking is that many of the skills fostered through learning to play and practising a musical instrument have “transfer benefits” in other areas of cognitive development and academic attainment.

However, that view is now challenged in a research paper by Giovanni Sala, a PhD candidate in cognitive psychology, and Fernand Gobet, Professor of Decision Making and Expertise, both at the University of Liverpool, and published in the Journal of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), February 2017.

One difficulty in responding to Sala & Gobet’s findings is that alongside their strongly evidenced research paper they have also written a short blog post with the eye-catching title,  No proof music lessons make children any smarter, which is aimed at the general reader, and is now being widely shared online via social media.

I am grateful to my friend Mark Polishook for sharing it, albeit with the disclaimer, “Don’t blame me – I’m only the messenger” – a sentiment I would very much like to echo in sharing this research here!

That said, there are just so many great reasons for learning to play a musical instrument that I’ve never felt the need for spurious ones – and if it turns out that the notion of “transfer benefits” is such, then I hardly think musicians and educators need to lose sleep over it. Better to know the truth – and to focus on genuine benefits when extolling the tremendous value of music education.

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Initiating Practice

Guest Post by Roberta Wolff

Download FREE Resources to motivate students to initiate their own practice sessions…

Here we are at the start of a New Year!  There is a general sense of buzz and purpose as we all set about getting back into our usual routines and perhaps starting new ones…

This post is about helping our students harness this enthusiasm and turn it into regular and habitual practising time which is entirely self-initiated! Parents will love this and will also benefit from this article.

The free resources below will help you start a studio wide practice challenge. To Download and save, simply click on these links:

  1. Initiating Practice – student chart
  2. Initiating Practice: Teacher chart (master-sheet)

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Take a Bow! How, When and Why…

Advice for New Performers

As the pianist releases the final notes of the piece, the audience bursts into enthusiastic applause. The player stands and takes a bow…

It’s a code of conduct that we tend to take for granted – but one that should be taught and practised as part of performance preparation.

Because I try to cultivate a friendly, non-competitive, informal atmosphere at my student concerts, I have not always been careful to make sure that new performers understand the importance of “stagecraft”, and the essential place of taking a bow in order to receive and acknowledge audience applause.

I have been trying to address that by giving students a “mock performance” experience in their lesson, including teaching them how to bow. Here is a quick summary that supports that practice.

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My Practice Palette

Author of several great resources, Roberta Wolff here discusses the value of teaching students How to Practice, and introduces her latest publication ”My Practice Palette

Guest post by Roberta Wolff

Question:  “Why should my child learn the piano?”
Answer:  “Because it will give them the opportunity to learn how to practice!”

What Our Students Learn

This is what students learn when we teach them How to Practise:

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