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.

I try to cultivate a friendly, non-competitive, informal atmosphere at my student concerts, but it’s still important to teach new performers the importance of more formal “stagecraft”, etiquette, and the essential place of taking a bow to receive and acknowledge audience applause.

I often give students a “mock performance” experience in their lesson, including teaching them how to bow. Here is a quick summary that supports that practice.

Continue reading Take a Bow! How, When and Why…

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:

Continue reading My Practice Palette

Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 2

Improvisation – Jump In!

Guest post by Simon Reich  (pictured)

The amazing thing about improvisation, in my experience, is the fact that inspiration and output can come no matter how I am feeling.

In fact, some of the best tunes I have composed have been when I am feeling down and compromised. The flip side to this is that when I am happy, the creative juices still flow! So in essence, nothing need hold you back from a productive improvisation.

As mentioned in the previous article, armed with your skills of scale and chord understanding it’s always the right time to start noodling around the keyboard and find a gem waiting to be unearthed. Sometimes it starts with a chord progression, other times a melody.

When I was quite young, I remember hearing certain tunes and feeling a funny tingling sensation in my stomach. This became my yardstick for great chord progressions. If I could make myself feel those “butterflies in my tummy”, I’d done it!

You are your own best guide to what sound good, so trust your intuition.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear – Jack Canfield

Continue reading Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 2

The Pianist’s Emotions

The Pianist’s Reflections Series

Emotions are an essential aspect of our basic humanity. But when they are out of balance they can become dangerous, with the potential to leave us feeling shipwrecked and adrift.

The Problem for Pianists

Of course this is true for everyone – but for piano players (and for musicians and performers in general) there can be some additional challenges, and the swing from over-excitement to terrible disappointment and back can become our daily emotional currency:

  • We are exposed – even for hours on end – to powerful and profound emotions, communicated wordlessly by some of the most creative people in history
  • To play well we must engage with our own emotions, those of the composer, and in performance with those of our audiences
  • We work often in solitude, with few alternative emotional outlets other than our musical expression
  • The touring of the concert pianist, and the long (often antisocial) hours of the piano teacher can put additional strain on our physical and social wellbeing
  • The piano world is a hyper-competitive one (often in my view, destructively so) leaving many players with low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and a crippling sense of failure

We contend with all these issues as an added factor on our journey through life, which of course includes the same emotional challenges in our personal lives, family, security, and health that everyone else has to cope with.

It is little wonder that so many pianists sustain significant emotional damage and suffer from mental health problems.

A recent survey by The Stage reported 7 out of 10 musicians report mental health problems, while a study conducted in Australia by Entertainment Assist found that musicians are up to ten times more likely to have mental health problems than the general population.

What we need is “emotional wisdom” – the self-awareness that helps us keep our emotions in check, balanced and healthy.

Continue reading The Pianist’s Emotions

Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 1

Improvisation – Can it be learnt?

Guest post by Simon Reich  (pictured)

People ask me, “can you learn to improvise”, and my answer is, “YES, the majority of musicians can be taught”.

If you have only ever played from printed scores, then surely at times you have heard music in your head? It’s just a matter of coaxing that out via the instrument.

Continue reading Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 1

Faber Music Piano Anthology

Faber Music launched their deluxe Faber Music Piano Anthology with impeccable timing, just a few weeks before Christmas – but it makes a wonderful gift book for enthusiastic pianists, all the year around!

Continue reading Faber Music Piano Anthology

A Voyage of Discovery

Pathways for Teaching

Guest Author  Paul Harris  explores how lessons might best unfold.

Continue reading A Voyage of Discovery

ABRSM Conference Report

ABRSM’s Teacher Conference has established itself as one of the leading events in the instrumental teacher’s calendar, providing an opportunity for colleagues to network, stay abreast of new developments in the music teaching world, and refresh teaching skills.

This year’s conference took place at London’s Grange Tower Bridge Hotel on Saturday 5th November, and took as its title and grand theme ”The Art and Craft of Performing. More than 500 teachers attended, including me for the first time.

Continue reading ABRSM Conference Report