There are certain habits of piano practice which are ingrained in us from an early age and which have become a form of “piano dogma”. As a young piano student we may accept these practices without question, trusting in our teacher’s seniority and assertion that these activities are “good for you”, that they will make you “a better pianist”.
Most of us in the music teaching community will have seen it by now - an ill-judged tweet by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) which stated that “Musical achievement is about how well you can do, how good you can get. That sense of attainment is tested by assessment which gives us intrinsic motivation to make us want to get better. That’s the virtuous circle of motivation.” (via Twitter, 24 September 2021).
'The Happy Music Play Book' by Cordelia Williams There’s a lot more to making music with children than singing The Wheels on the Bus or dancing to Baby Shark. Newborn babies can detect the pulse in music and infants respond to maternal speech and singing. Many children have a natural instinct for music making and… Continue reading Finding joy in music – every day: The Happy Music Play Book
A-level music education provided by state schools could completely disappear by 2033 as a result of an alarming year-on-year decline, new research suggests. Falling access to the music qualifications, accelerated by cuts in local and central government funding in recent years, has also led to the gap between state and independent music education provision widening,… Continue reading UK’s future music ‘talent pipeline’ at risk from A-level music decline
The key of C major. It’s the beginner’s key signature and usually the first scale that early piano students learn. (In fact, Chopin considered it the most difficult scale to play and instead liked to begin his students with the B major scale in the right hand, in order to more naturally introduce the passing… Continue reading In the Key of C
With COVID and lockdown, a lot of teachers and students have been faced with the challenge of learning online. Teachers, especially, have had to think of ways to make online lessons more fun and engaging.
Books about piano journeys are rare and valuable - especially those written from the perspective of the amateur player. A new book, by late-returner pianist and ex-technologist Howard Smith, adds to the genre and does so in a surprising (and delightful) fashion. In this article I list the six books I have read, and compare… Continue reading Piano Journeys – six books to own and love
A conversation between Frances Wilson (The Cross-Eyed Pianist) and Howard Smith Howard Smith is a late-returner pianist and the author of Note For Note: Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered. Here he shares his anxiety about the thorny issue of ‘efficient practice’ and the burden of imposter syndrome on self-confidence in one's practicing. Howard: I am in… Continue reading Efficient Practice and the ‘Imposter Syndrome’
“I am a beginner. I am always learning”* Fou Ts’ong This wonderfully humble quote from Fou Ts’ong, the acclaimed Chinese pianist, who died in December 2020, is a reminder that even those at the top of the profession should never stop learning. Our learning journey often begins in childhood, with early music lessons under the… Continue reading Always a beginner
My aim in this course is to be absolutely systematic and clear so that an adult beginner can teach themselves without difficulty, and without a teacher present. Equally, I would claim that an adult beginner can use the course to teach a child, or an older child a younger sibling, in exactly the way that Chopsticks has been handed down over generations.