Personalised Learning

Every aspect of music is personal.

A good performance depends on the player’s personal interpretation of the music. Enjoyment, for the listener, depends on their personal response to the music. Which in turn is informed by personal musical taste and experience.

And in the same way, learning to play a musical instrument is a highly personalised experience. In this post we’ll consider why that is true, and what it means in practice.

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The Eight Chord Trick

In this post I am going to share a simple trick that will help prompt you to compose and improvise your own music.

This also provides an excellent strategy for helping more advanced students develop their creativity, and move beyond written music.

When making up our own music it’s useful to have a “trigger” that helps get things started – or perhaps a set of “rules” or self-imposed limitations within which we will work. Far from limiting our imagination, this can stimulate our creativity as we explore the boundaries we have set ourselves.

The Eight Chord Trick can be used in exactly this way.

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A Policy for Touch

The hottest potato on UK Piano Forums within the last couple of weeks has been the issue of using touch in our teaching.

One good thing to come from the discussion has been the reminder that UK professional associations usually have Codes of Conduct requiring teachers to obtain written permission from parents before using touch with students under the age of 18.

This post considers how we can create such a policy, and why it is actually useful to do so.

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Women Composers, Piano Exams, and the Quest for Balance

When I published David Duncan’s guest article Women Composers and Grade Exams I really hoped that it would promote a healthy debate about a really important issue, and I am pleased that it has done so.

While I don’t generally comment on Guest Posts, on this occasion I would like to add a few thoughts. And I must begin by applauding David Duncan and his colleagues at LCM for their determination to address an imbalance. David makes a valuable contribution to the discussion, and I believe his efforts at LCM deserve our support and enthusiasm.

My hope is that by including far more works by women composers, their forthcoming piano  syllabus will be an eye-opener, in which unjustly neglected works will receive the greater exposure they deserve.

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ABRSM’s Theory rethink: a step in the right direction?

ABRSM surprised the teaching world this week with an email announcement detailing significant changes they plan to make to their Theory of Music Grades 1-5 examinations, from January 2018.

In this post I will explain the changes ABRSM are planning, assess reaction from teachers online, and share my own views, particularly in the context of my previous writings on this topic.

So let’s start by looking at exactly what ABRSM are planning to change.

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How much musical baggage do you carry?

Guest Post by Roberta Wolff

One of the things I love about teaching is hitting upon that perfect explanation, aural, visual or verbal, which offers immediate clarity. Sometimes the answer comes after much reflection and thought and sometimes it seems to hit, apparently, from nowhere.

This is what happened recently with an adult student. After a strong start to her piece she began scrambling, reacting to the notes on the score rather than working with control. I pointed out that to keep playing at her current speed would be to create musical baggage.

This was the first time I had used the term, but her comprehension was immediate simply because she already understood the common phrase, emotional baggage. The idea of musical baggage resonated with her and so has proven to be a simple but powerful aid to her practice.

Naturally, I developed the idea so it could benefit more than just one student.

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ABRSM’s Michael Elliott: The Pianodao Interview

An Interview with Michael Elliott, Chief Executive, ABRSM

I am hugely grateful to Michael Elliott, Chief Executive of ABRSM, for giving up his time to take part in this interview. At his suggestion, the questions were crowd-sourced prior to the interview.

As well as the many questions raised on the Pianodao site here, I received several via email and have included topics raised on the Piano Network UK forum.

So far as possible I will include reader questions word for word, but I have streamlined the recurring themes which cropped up.

And many of the questions asked were very probing – so get comfortable and prepare for an in-depth and revealing read! …

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What Can You Play?

One of the major stumbling blocks for players is that we too often feel that we are struggling, making little progress, and perhaps just haven’t got what it takes to become a “good player” (however we define what that even is!).

To enjoy playing an instrument, we need to move beyond this negative self-talk. And I suggest that one of the most easy and powerful ways we can all achieve this is to adjust the balance between working and playing during our personal piano time.

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