Introducing Students to New Pieces

The first look at a new piece is so important. As accomplished pianists/teachers, we automatically know to scan the piece to check the time signature, key signature, texture, composer, title, etc. before playing through a piece. Of course, we were trained to go through those steps before sightreading through a piece.

Before having students sightread, what do you say/do with them to introduce a new piece? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Here’s some things I’ve tried:

Scan the piece before playing it. Ask the student what s/he notices about the piece. Together, look for key/time signature changes, places where the hand(s) move to other registers on the keyboard, etc. Ask the student specific questions: “Do you see anywhere else in this piece where this pattern/theme occurs?” or “Can you point to all the places where there is an interval of a fifth?”

Count and clap the rhythm of the piece, while singing the pitches (with your help). I’ve found this to be very helpful with young beginner students who are not yet accustomed to sight-reading. The rhythm practice is always beneficial – but interestingly enough, I’ve found that singing the pitches helps them learn how to “hear” the pitches in their head when looking at a sheet of music (thus it is an ear training exercise too). It also helps students get an idea of what the piece sounds like.

Discuss the piece’s contextual background. This involves talking about the title/subject of the piece, the composer of the piece, and/or the historical background of the piece (i.e., what period of musical history was it written). This mostly applies to classical pieces, but it may also work well with pieces that have a historical subject or reference (e.g., a minuet).

Discuss the compositional techniques and composer’s intentions. For example, if a piece is about a popcorn, we will discuss how we can create the right mood and energy level to create the effect of popcorn popping. We would also discuss how the composer used certain articulations, note values, dynamics, etc., to help create that effect. For another example: the Primer level of the Faber Piano Adventures has a piece called “Copy Cat.” We first establish what it means to be a copycat, and then we look at the piece to find where the “copying” occurs. With beginner/elementary level pieces, I will often use the title/subject of the piece and its corresponding illustration as a launching point for discussing certain aspects of the piece.

Going through one or more steps such as these with the student helps establish good habits towards becoming a better sight reader. As a bonus, discussing with the student things like the contextual background and the compositional techniques of the piece may help them get excited about practicing the piece at home.

5 Tips to Help You Practice Drums

Have you been trying to practice drums on your own? If so, we suggest that you follow some tips from experts. Read on.

1) Always Have A Plan

Before sitting down to practice, make sure you have plan about what to do. But if you want to play around for a while, you still have to have a basic plan. The idea is not to make it hard for you practice drums. The purpose of having a plan is to get ready to achieve the goals that you have in your mind.

2) Get Help From A Professional

This is very important. After all, experts are experts and you should benefit from their knowledge and experience. They will give you good drum lessons to help you get better at it. All you have to do is get your lessons from the people who are qualified. The lessons will have step-by-step instruction in order to help you get better at this art. Within a few weeks, it will become easier for you to play the drums.

3) Technique And Musicality

Most drum artists make a common mistake. They don’t balance their practice between musicality and technique. The benefit of a great technique is to get the most out of it. In other words, you may want to apply the technique to benefit from it. What good is it if you don’t use it?

It should also be kept in mind that practicing technique is not going to make you a great musician. What makes you better is playing music. Moreover, technique is fun to practice since it can be quantified. What you need to do is use both musicality and technique.

4) Get Feedback

When you are going to do something, make sure you let your family, friends, dry cleaners, band-mates and pastor know about it. Once they are around you, you may want to hold you responsible for your performance. This will help you identify your mistakes and then you will be able to correct them. This habit will make you more productive and your confidence level will also get high.

5) Practice Every Day

While the previous 4 tips are important, this one is very important. As a matter of fact, this is the most important tip should you want to become a great drummer. So, I have put this on the bottom of the article so you can get this tip only if you are a serious professional.

What you need to do to get better is practice playing drums on a regular basis. Even if you don’t have much time, you can devote, say, 10 minutes each day. This is a lot better than doing nothing. As a matter of fact, you can have no excuses to avoid practicing. So, you should try your level best.