Do more with Chords, Time & What to practice

Using Chords Differently in Improvisation.

It’s the last day of February and I left my readers in Impro Limbo. So check out the next step in my Improvisation pages.

Time and responsibility

A dear friend of mine, Sandy, lost her husband. JD’s heart gave out and he went to be with his Savior Saturday. Though they are in their 80’s, there was no age barrier – no matter what the age of the person they spent time with. Time. We all have it. We all have a limited amount of it. The “trick” to making the most of it is to know when it runs out. The trouble is, you never really know when life stops here and we become accountable to our Creator. These are sobering thoughts, but we must have been bad enough for God to send His Son to pay our sin’s penalty on the cross. The only uplifting thought in all this is Christ arose! And because of that, we too can live for eternity with Him – or without Him. It’s our choice. The freedom of choice. Freedom always brings responsibility. So, how will you use your time and responsibility?

What to Practice
So as a piano teacher, one of the most important “jobs” I have is to teach each student how use use their time effectively when they practice. Students are different and learn in various ways, but I usually find the following formula to work for the majority of pianist:

Warm up with a favorite. You would think it would be scales and such, but
playing favorites improves pianistic expression and puts the player ion the mood.

Play drills, scales, etc. Play them 3 or more times each to improve dexterity (quickness and accuracy). Play them in various ways like loudly, staccato, crossed hands, octaves apart, with either a crescendo or diminuendo, ritardendo or accelerendo. Think of them as as foes to conquer or friends to enjoy, but play them!

Play the method book assignment. Learn the new skills in these books and the repertoire will be easier to learn.

Play other repertoire. If a song is really disliked, I would probably suggest you play it before the method books. Nothing like getting the spinach of the plate and ending with the brownie.

Play other keyboard assignments and more favorites. Explore interval sounds and chord progressions. Make up a tune. Have fun!

Do written work whenever possible. Theory and Harmony assignments help the student understand musical construction and read notation quicker.

Does your teacher assign from the four areas (drills, method, repertoire, written work) plus favorites? Do you as a teacher use these groups? Try it and let me know what you like to do.

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How Do You Open A Closed Mind?

Art Supplies

I’m getting excited about painting. I used all my Christmas and B-day gifts to buy some materials. Since I’m usually house bound, I shop online. It’s hard finding what I need in the Wichita area anyway, so I pulled out my Dick Blick catalogs, made my list and after some online comparative shopping, stuck with my original order. With all the lesson openings in my piano studio schedule and the upcoming summer slow down, I figured it’s about time to paint.

Now, I’m pretty good at graphite drawings but it’s been a long time since I just painted for fun. Some one who saw my murals for church-use said they saw my artwork and that put me off a bit. Large scale murals painted for illustration purposes does not at all represent the nuances of fine art. I didn’t bother trying to sway a mind closed to the idea of discussion.

Closed Minds VS Ambitions

So, that brings up an interesting point – How do you open a closed mind? How can a piano teacher convince students they can do it? There are many reasons for a closed mind.

Now, I’ve engineered decks, wired an entire house, sewn suits, and trisected an angle with only a straight-edge and compass before the other student did it and made the papers – so I can safely say I’m a person willing to try most anything (I will not jump out of planes and ride backwards on a rollercoaster – so don’t even go there). But when it’s been a long time since I’ve done something, I admit to being afraid of failure.

Now nothing closes a mind from opportunities like fear. Fear from failing to get that scholarship is often pure fear. There are the fears of making a wrong decision that make adversely impact others and the fear of injury and such. These are legitimate fears but still they are often overcome with the reward of great satisfaction.

More commonly encountered, though is the fear of being laughed at or fear of not delivering on an expectation and maybe the fear of disappointing my own image of myself. I suspect the person who didn’t want to talk about my art was afraid she would have found I was as good an artist as her grand daughter. There is always someone better than you. Some will learn faster, play faster, paint better, throw farther, etc. The question is, “Can I live with the fact there are others better than myself?” This reasoning reveals more than Fear. Pride is often the underlying cause of our fears. Acknowledging that there will be someone better than you and that’s okay really frees you up to try new adventures. You’re not doing it to be the proven best. You are doing it to better yourself and to experience life more fully. So, sorry students, you do have to improvise! So go out and try!