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Skyped Piano Lessons: Using video supplements as reinforcement (Video sent to an 8-year old student)

Today I Skyped a third piano lesson between California and Oregon, and learned that the student I was mentoring was not 10-years old as I had thought all along, but only 8!

Dad told me she had 10 months of lessons altogether, wherein I became involved only weeks ago at the father’s invitation. But the first phase of my musical relationship to the child involved a video exchange through a common private You Tube channel.

That process remained in place after I purchased and set up my iMac 21 for SKYPE.

In the past few weeks, many videos have been uploaded and sent back and forth, which in my opinion have significantly advanced the student’s progress. The participation of the father has also been pivotal to gains the child has made. He is very involved in the real-time lessons, and in the video exchange.

When his daughter practices between lessons, I am sent a video(s) of her session, and will comment on various phrases, measures. I then shoot back a responsive video underscoring my points.

So far I have found Skyped lessons to be valuable in fostering progress in conjunction with video supplementation.

Today I sent the video below to dad as reinforcement of the five-finger technical work we commenced today. It is no.1 of Dozen a Day, Bk. 1 “Walking and Running.” (Edna Mae Burnham) I expanded the exercise to include 32nds legato followed by Staccato Forte/Staccato piano.

In general I use these Pentascales to advance the singing tone and a supple wrist, and I take the student through all keys, “Parallel” Majors and minors. (Not the “relative” minors for this routine) At today’s lesson we embarked upon C Major and minor in parallel and contrary motion.

The balance of the Skyped lesson focused on the Chopin Waltz in A minor, No. 17 and the Clementi Sonatina, Op. 36 no. 3, first movement, Spiritoso.

Down the line I plan to introduce TWO octave scales through the FJH Classic Scale Book (McArthur and McLean) alongside the pentascale warm-ups. These pursuits will be videotaped and shared.

This 8-year old is not typical of students I have in this age category. She is very focused, physically adept, and musically inclined. The lesson plan is therefore adapted to her specific strengths and weaknesses and not standardized.

Teaching that is standardized does not make adjustments for individual needs.

RELATED:
Correction needed below: student is 8 years old!

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/an-8-year-olds-playing-before-and-after-skype-lessons-plus-video-supplementation-chopin-waltz-in-a-minor-no-19-videos/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/between-california-and-oregon-skyping-chopin-with-a-ten-year-old-student-video-of-lesson-in-progress/

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Piano Instruction: Debussy Arabesque No. 1 (Video)–and playing through the whole composition

I first came to know this piece when a fifth grader at P.S. 122 in the Bronx was selected to play it at our student assembly. The ebb and flowing beauty of this work was so poignant, that I stored it away in my memory until I was able to personally experience this composition years later as a student.

***

The Debussy Arabesque no. 1 is a composition from the Impressionist era of musical composition. (late 19th Century following the Romantic period) Debussy and Ravel were the hallmark French composers of the time.

Apparently, the two Arabesques were the first works Debussy had ever composed for the piano, so they had immense historical significance.

The vocabulary of Debussy’s music is rich in harmonic dimension. The composer uses 7ths, 9ths, 11th and more, while he intersperses whole tone progressions that are so characteristic of his writing.

One can use more pedal when playing Debussy and not worry about perfectly pure sounding lines, though in this particular composition, special care must be taken to shape and contour phrases so they aren’t blurred and over-pedaled.

If density or volume ever applied to musical performance, this piece meets all requirements for a slow entry into notes, and a swimming motion through them.

The video below suggests ways to approach the composition, following the harmonic rhythm, bass line notes, and rolling broken-chord patterns. The player must have relaxed arms, a supple wrist, and be immersed in wave-like musical forms.

I have first played it through from beginning to end before discussing part 1:

First section:

Playing the triplets against 8ths:

Video Part Two:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/piano-instruction-part-two-debussy-arabesque-no-1-teacher-shirley-kirsten-video-2/


RELATED for use of supple wrists and floating arms along with rotation:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/piano-instruction-schumann-arabesque-op-18-using-a-supple-wrist-follow-through-motion-and-parceling-out-voices-video/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/piano-instruction-avoiding-injuries-using-butterfly-by-edvard-grieg-as-a-slow-practicing-example-video/

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Between California and Oregon: Skyping Chopin with an eight-year old student (Video of lesson in progress)

At the cue of a SKYPE musical trademark ring, I tapped the green-colored phone icon and brought an eight-year old, her dad, and a grand piano into view.

A second virtual lesson beamed between California and Oregon officially began!

Featured composition: Chopin’s Waltz in A minor, no. 17, Op. Posthumous.

This time I aimed my camcorder at the iMac screen and kept it there throughout the lesson.

In a pleasant state of satisfaction with this mode of transmission, I continued to believe that improvements in a student’s playing could be made over SKYPE. As proof, right before my eyes I watched an 8-year old phrase more beautifully with a desired singing tone as compared to her first playing that was transmitted by private video.

In the pre-Skype phase of our teacher-student relationship, dad set up a two-way video sharing channel and this provided an opportunity to have the raw playing sample before any teaching occurred and to zero in on what needed improvement.

This preliminary video exchange process was a vital supplement to the real-time Skyped lessons when they were scheduled because it allowed the student to revisit my remedial videos as many times as needed, and likewise, I could follow her progress between Skypes as she incorporated my suggestions into her playing. Dad uploaded additional practice sessions that I could comment on.

Each Skyped piano lesson that followed video sharing provided reinforcement of points already made.

Here is a sample of today’s virtual lesson in progress:

RELATED:
Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 17, Op. Posthumous, with Aiden Cat sitting beside me on the piano bench:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5MLPxKFl2c

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/a-skyped-piano-lesson-in-progress-practicing-mazurka-by-maria-szymanowska-videos/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/my-first-skyped-piano-lesson-from-california-to-oregon/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/long-distance-piano-teaching-a-novel-experience/

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Piano Instruction: Common student problems related to playing Clementi Sonatina, Op. 36, No. 3, Spiritoso (Video)

The student I’m currently teaching by Skype has received a number of supplemental videos from me that target problems universal to those learning Clementi Sonatina, Op. 36, No. 3.

In this video, geared for teachers as well as students, I define areas in the first movement, Spiritoso, that need particular focus for improvement:

As a preliminary, the Classical era Sonatina Form should be explored, fleshing out the EXPOSITION (first and second themes); DEVELOPMENT (devices used that relate to rhythm, and modulation to various keys) RECAPITULATION (return of Theme I and related material in the home key)

In summary:

1) The left hand broken chords that open the composition are usually played vertically and far too loud, detracting from the melody or THEME I (The same issue presents where Theme I is inverted in the Development section, and returns in the Recapitulation)

Remediation: Have the student first “block” out these two-note Left Hand figures with a “spongy” wrist, and then unblock, playing softly with a rocking motion, being attentive to the notes that move. (a flexible wrist is needed)

2) Piece lacks a steady, underlying, cohesive beat. Tempo changes are frequent.

Remediation: DON’T use a metronome. Instead instill a rhythmic consciousness by lifting beats as a conductor beside the student. Sing beats, so they have a phrase context. Subdivide counting using ANDS between beats as necessary.

3) Dynamic range is not wide enough throughout the composition, and Theme II needs a contrast and change in character. Underlying broken chords played in the bass under Theme 2 are too ponderous.

Remediation: Encourage Attentive listening for changes in dynamics; requires deeper in the key weight transfer to lighter application having a relaxed arm, wrist, and elbow. For the broken chord figures in the bass, block with a spongy wrist, and unblock with a rotation of the left hand.

4) Notes are played without awareness of a singing tone. Phrases lack shape.

Remediation: Sing phrases with student, and apply weight transfer to create swells of a line, as well as crescendo and diminuendo, enlisting a supple wrist.

5) Where music has measures of imitation, student overlooks.

Remediation: Focus on these and practice feeding the imitative lines between the hands, framing as a “conversation.”

6) Note values are not observed, giving short shrift to quarter notes, in particular while rests are ignored.

Remediation: Focus on measures where these figures need attention, and count beats aloud with student. Where quarter notes are dropped too early in relation to eighths running through them, single out those measures for extra practice.

7) Articulation and phrasing as noted by the composer are not observed (slurs, legato to staccato figures, etc)

Remediation: Remind student of the composer’s markings in the music and separately practice measures that need clarity.

8) Detached notes, such as those indicated with a staccato marking are clipped too short or come out sounding too heavy with unwanted accents.

Remediation: Work with student on lengthening these, keeping the wrist pliant to avoid crash landings on the keys.

9) Fingering is frequently not observed which impacts phrasing, articulation, etc.

Remediation: Single out measures that need fingering adjustments and practice behind tempo.

10) Trills bog down the flow of the composition, mostly played too slow, and in a tempo that is markedly different from the rest of the piece.

Remediation: Practice a measured trill and have the student focus on the steadiness of the bass notes through pertinent measures.

RELATED:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/clementi-and-crickets-videos/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/learning-and-memorizing-clementi-sonatina-in-c-op-36-no-1-mvt-1-video/

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Piano Instruction: Schumann Arabesque, Op. 18-Using a supple wrist follow through motion, and parceling out voices (Video)

The Schumann Arabesque is a heartfelt character piece from the Romantic era. It requires the player to have a very supple wrist to realize the lilt of buoyant, legato dotted eighth/16th figures that permeate the music.

Though the composition is in C Major, it has interludes in the minor, that are somber and impassioned.

I chose to flesh out the opening section of the Arabesque for my current instruction. And in keeping with my assertion that learning should begin with baby steps, I isolated each of 4 voices, individually playing and contouring them.

Starting with the soprano (uppermost voice) I used my spongy, supple wrist to shape redundant rhythmic figures that would otherwise have sounded typed out and monotonous with a stiff wrist. (Breathing natural, full breaths were part of the process)

When I next identified the tenor, then alto voice, I gave myself the opportunity to combine the alto (and tenor, which was double stemmed) with the soprano. I then played bass and soprano lines together. This specific undertaking was a challenge because the alto figure along with tenor doubled notes could not overshadow the soprano line. The thumb also needed to be subdued so it wouldn’t intrude upon the uppermost voice that contained a very fluid melody.

The bass provided the underpinning for the composition, and was learned as thoroughly as the other voices.

Combining the bass with the tenor/alto voices, or separately playing this line with the soprano was an important ingredient of thoughtful practicing.

Putting all voices together with sensitivity to the balance between them, provided the necessary foundation for the piece to grow and develop.

Adding pedal was the final touch giving the composition nuance and polish.

RELATED:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/about-the-physical-side-of-playing-what-we-need-to-teach-at-all-levels-videos/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/piano-technique-and-weight-control-bringing-out-and-balancing-voices-video-teacher-shirley-kirsten/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/piano-instruction-avoiding-injuries-using-butterfly-by-edvard-grieg-as-a-slow-practicing-example-video/

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Long Distance Internet-based Piano Teaching: a novel experience

I haven’t yet jumped onto the big Mac Screen in real-time, seated amidst two tripods and three pianos with a pair of earphones. Instead I took an assignment sharing videos back and forth with a piano student in another state. (We have a privately arranged You Tube Channel for our exchange)

It appears to be a productive musical relationship thus far that’s yielded some significant improvement from a 10-year old pupil smiling at me from her seat at a brand new grand piano.

I can’t help but think that SKYPING is around the corner. The I mac 21 and 1/2 that I just acquired is center stage and there’s no longer a clear path to the kitchen without tripping over the spaghetti strings of Ethernet C5 cables. I have two other computers tied up with wires (one upstairs) because I don’t like the radiation factor with Wi-fi regardless of what anyone tells me about non-existent health risks. (Maybe I should toss out the wireless mouse that came with the Mac) At least I haven’t gone overboard obsessing about a potential earthquake calamity while SKYPING. Besides, to be honest, Fresno has no “fault,” though we had a pretty big aftershock when Coalinga and its crickets were blasted out of anonymity. (See Blog, Clementi and the Crickets)

I’m more at risk for a nature-related catastrophe in the Bay area, but who cares? I wouldn’t mind going out in a nice ambiance, with a pleasing climate.

Back to long distance Internet-generated piano teaching.

This prelude to Skyping is a nice fit. The student can watch the tutorials endlessly and refine her practicing even if I’m not within earshot. And my sending responses to her videos, provides a nice tempo of interchange. I can keep a record of the videos, review them, refine some of my ideas, and shoot back others marking specific remediation to problem areas.

Skyping, phase two of this out-of-town engagement, will be interesting to assess. With an open mind, I’ll be entering journal notes as I move along.

For now, I’ll cast my vote for the video exchange, or best case scenario, a combination of both virtual experiences. Stay tuned.

***

Feedback from Skypers is always appreciated.

RELATED:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/my-first-skyped-piano-lesson-from-california-to-oregon/