adult piano instruction, adult piano lessons, legato, online piano instruction, piano, piano blog, piano pedagogy, piano teaching, piano technique, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, staccato

A “cool” dip into Quicktime for wrist, finger, and forearm staccato practice

Amazing how 90-degree temperatures in the East Bay can wreak havoc over Face Time transmissions. It nearly made Online mentoring come to a grinding halt yesterday! except that a Quick Time saving grace Lesson Preserver came to the rescue!

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In my Scotland travels, I’m accustomed to subbing in the iPhone for the iMac because of two-way computer Online Face Time/Skype irregularities, so from week to week, I’d been giving my back-up camcorder a 60-minute workout, snatching the whole lesson for a same day uploaded re-cap. But once I realized Quick Time on the Big Mac could be enlisted to simultaneously record selected lesson segments while glaring at the cell image of a Yamaha grand, I had the best of both worlds: Live iPhone transmission and a selective mouse clicked re-run in progress.

Here’s the set up: Call it an EMT piano teaching equivalent.

Naturally, the mechanics of Quicktime allow focus on well-measured lesson goals. For example, yesterday, I demonstrated a variety of Staccato approaches in scale and arpeggio framings using the overhead keyboard web cam view. (wrist, forearm, finger driven detached notes on display)

And once the day played out with cooler evening temps draping the East Bay, I had sufficiently “warmed up” my ‘finger’ staccato to demonstrate a fast 32nd-note romp.

In summary, being flexible and resourceful in this Online universe is a must to keep lessons up and running despite occasional annoying transmission problems.

F Sharp Major scale, online piano instruction, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano learning, piano playing, piano teaching, Shirley Kirsten

A London piano student fine tunes her F# Major scales and arpeggios (staccato and legato)

Yu Du 1

Yu has been my Skype student for a few years now and she’s made big gains in producing a singing tone with supple wrists, relaxed arms, and hand/finger weight transfer. Today she assiduously practiced her F# Major Scale and Arpeggio, energizing forearm and wrist staccato. Using “cupped hands” for her power driven forearm staccato on the black keys, she played precise, crisp and accurate notes after absorbing a few of my suggestions. In the universe of wrist staccato, she created a nuanced piano (soft) dynamic. (Yu has noticeably fluid wrist motions that she’s acquired from deliberate, goal focused practice)

At the Skype recital (March 15) beamed to LIVE and ONLINE students from Berkeley, California all over the US and world, Yu played a very lovely Andante movement from Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, K. 545. (Here’s just a snatch)

I recently interviewed Yu about her piano, hobbies, activities and recent career shift to life coaching.

LINK

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/an-adult-piano-student-who-builds-pianos-and-restores-planes/

adult piano instruction, adult piano lessons, blogmetrics, blogmetrics.org, Chopin, Chopin Waltzes, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, online piano instruction, pedaling on the piano, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano pedagogy, Romantic era piano music, Waltz, wordpress, youtube

Pedaling Chopin Waltz No. 19 in A minor, Op. Posthumous

Frederic Chopin

When considering ways to pedal Chopin’s ethereal A minor Waltz, I think back to Stephen Hough and his teacher’s comments about the learning process: “I don’t care how you’re playing the piece now, what I care about is how you’ll play it in 10 years.” (Gordon Green)

Well as a segue way to this posting, I will admit to having a time-nurtured set of revelations about interpretation as well as pedaling the Romantic composer’s masterpiece. Certainly, my current pedaling choices, different from those offered in 2011, are not set in stone and are subject to experimentation and variation. That’s what musical growth is about for students of all levels. And we must constantly remind ourselves of our eternal student status with its attendant learning horizon expansion. (The creative process has no bounds and always preserves an opening for new thoughts and ideas to filter in)

Having opened with no apology for my flux of ideas pertaining the Chopin’s A minor Waltz, I still offer my latest pedaling practices, with a webcam directed at my right foot. Hopefully, this will be a springboard for those embarking on a common, Chopin inspired musical journey.


Play through in Tempo for pedaling:
(Rubato is added in this playing)

A good reference for pedaling techniques of all varieties is Melanie Spanswick’s excellent blog on the subject:

http://melaniespanswick.com/2015/05/19/perfect-pedalling/

My teaching supplement for an Online adult piano student:

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My new Overhead webcam view adds fingering clarity and choreography

A You Tube glimpse of Bach Scholar’s set-up for piano lessons by Skype clarified the right overhead keyboard view. Instead of enlisting a clip-on cam that provided an abridged and inverted view of the the keys, I secured a horizontal Alzo mount for my Targus 60″ tripod, that gives a perfect planet keyboard panorama.

THE NEW VIEW below

overhead and treble clef

Quicktime overhead angle

overhead keyboard quicktime view

An adult student requested a video of C Major scale Organizers, so this overhead view was chosen:

Same perspective was used for a fingering snatch from Chopin’s Eb Nocturne, Op. 9, No.1:

A second valuable keyboard angle uses a Logitech web cam clipped to my solid K&M German made music stand:

music stand mounted cam

alternate keyboard view

In summary, both aforementioned keyboard angles are valuable teaching tools, whether applied to Online or LIVE piano lessons. In each instance, students can be sent recorded lesson segments to aid practicing.

REMINDER:

Skype and FaceTime transmitted lessons afford the opportunity to enlist multiple camera views, while Skype Call recorder provides the easiest means of snatching parts or the whole of a lesson in progress. For FaceTime, I use Quicktime record, and the same for recording LIVE lessons. These I import to iMovie for editing purposes before uploading to You Tube. If editing is not needed, footage can be drag/dropped into the You Tube upload box.

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me under overhead webcam

LINKS

A Piano Lesson by Skype Primer

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/a-piano-lesson-by-skype-primer/

Multi-cam views during Skype and FaceTime Piano lessons
(the Logitech C615 cam is incompatible with the Mac Mavericks upgrade, so I’ve transitioned to the C920HD1080p model)

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/multi-cam-views-during-skype-or-facetime-piano-lessons/

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Online Piano Lessons by Webcam: Pros and Cons (Videos)

I’m not about to pitch web-cam driven piano instruction like a CD package promoter of Piano Playing in a Flash. Learning piano is not in the espresso lane. It takes time, patience, and practice.

The question is, can a student gain as much from Online piano study vs. “live” in-person lessons.

For decades I was a tradition-bound teacher with a touchy feely relationship to my instrument. My goal had always been to ignite passion about tone production and phrasing in the presence of my students. (Who would think, otherwise?)

My beloved NYC teacher Lillian Freundlich was my role model. She always sat beside me to monitor tensions that crept into my movements. Quite often she checked my elbows and wrists until I could experience my own sense of physical freedom and Oneness with the piano. Frequently, she sang over my playing in a mother-loving musical transfer that helped me shape phrases.

When I grew up to become a piano teacher, I carried on her legacy, hovering over my students, singing, conducting, and sometimes squeezing myself onto a tight-fitting bench to demonstrate a line or two.

Any other form of mentoring was culture alien.

It was like a hurricane it, when I sprang upon a You Tube of concert pianist, Jeffrey Biegel teaching a young adult student in Singapore. While thousands of miles separated the two, meaningful instruction transpired. Right before my eyes, in less than 30 minutes, the pupil’s phrasing had improved.

I was inspired enough to try out the Millennium piano teaching landscape, having an open mind.

One of my earliest Skyped lessons was transmitted to an adult student whom I’d taught “live” in El Cerrito, California. Since she would be missing a few sessions due to business obligations, a convenient make-up schedule was needed. The Online route seemed like an easy option.

The lesson flowed well and further make-ups ensued. Here’s one example:

Here’s a “live” lesson with the same student as a means of comparison:

The positives of SKYPING

1) I can strategically place my Logitech external webcam so it provides an up-close-and-personal keyboard view of my arms, hands and wrists. This camera placement allows me to demonstrate various phrases for the student.

Likewise, the student can angle her camera for an optimal view of her hands if she has good equipment. Some students rely on the computer’s internal camera which can work if the lap top is moved close enough to their instrument.

(A London-based student uses a SWIX external cam that provides an outstanding view of her hands and keyboard)

When I think about it, this big screen enhancement of our piano-related physiology, provides a minute-to-minute flow of music and ideas that doesn’t require my nudging a student off the bench for a demonstration.

With pupils I had coached from my second piano (a Steinway upright) the distance would be larger than by computer channels, though I could still walk over to the student if she were present.

(MUSIC READER, incidentally, is a program that allows the teacher to post the music a student is playing, and make notations of fingering, dynamics, etc. as the lesson is in progress. It’s another distance-bridger that supports Online lessons.)

2) From a faraway location, an Online pupil can videotape a “live” Skype lesson aiming the camera in the teacher’s direction. (Many students have done this, though I often send them a supplementary video during the week to flesh out the goals of our lesson)

Convenience of Scheduling

3) Online instruction affords flexibility in setting lesson times. For students wanting to sandwich in a lesson over a lunch break or on weekends, even Sundays, it’s mouse click away. No travel, no hassle.

In cities where access to private instruction is limited, web-caming provides an otherwise unavailable learning opportunity.

(In this regard, I’ve fielded inquiries from Vietnam and Malaysia, among other distant countries. Time differences, however, have to be considered.)

In rural areas of the US, the same access can be provided through Online instruction.

Disadvantages

1) Online transmission, no matter what source is used, is not completely free of interference, static, pauses, echoes. (Earphones don’t always solve these problems) In addition, the sound or tone of an acoustic piano is somewhat marred over Skype. Even using Go to Office, tone was somewhat improved though not yet perfected. (For better audio, I use a Yeti mic, instead of my Mac’s internal mic)

While on certain days or times, a complete lesson may flow smoothly without electronic impediment, there will more than likely be periods when both parties will have to sign off, and re-sign on to establish a better connection.

After a while, this is something both student and teacher accept as part of the current landscape, though improvements in technology are in progress.

2) Two pianos cannot not play at the same time, as there may be a time lag that affects synchronized efforts. (Forget duet playing as an option)

3) The etiquette of Skyping or web-caming is that the teacher and student speak or play separately. This requires mutual patience.

4) Singing over a playing is not advised, since it poses the same overlay of complications, though I can’t seem to stop my spontaneous vocalizing Online or offline.

SUPPLEMENTS to web-cam instruction

I find it advantageous to send videos to my Online private students during the week, (at no extra charge) that review the assignment and highlight practicing goals. These run about 15 minutes and are transmitted as UNLISTED or PRIVATE You Tubes.

In a few cases, pupils have sent me video updates of their practicing to which I shoot back a responsive one, or provide a written critique of what has improved and/or needs more focus.

Video sharing is enormously helpful and seems indispensable to Online instruction.

Theory instruction can also be a valued adjunct to private lessons. It can be scheduled mid-week, or at the end of the month to enrich piano study.

Group Webcam Lessons

This is a relatively a new universe of piano teaching. POWHOW features piano lesson sign-ups in a class or private one-to-one setting.

Currently I teach a tone production class that had its maiden voyage a few months ago.

In this setting, I have boxes to tap when checking the progress of individual students, a mind-boggling concept to entertain. Take a look:

On both sides there are mute buttons, and one that permits a student not to be seen by other class members.

Otherwise with individual piano students, there’s only one box to keep track of.

A Word about teaching children Online

I haven’t mentioned my experiences Skyping private lessons to children. This is an area where the verdict is not yet in.

My inclination is NOT to teach raw beginners Online. 5 to 10-year olds need close monitoring and the physical presence of a teacher at the inception of learning. The right chemistry and the quality of a personal/musical relationship with a youngster are paramount to the success of lessons.

In addition, duet playing which is a valuable teaching and ear-training activity in the early years, especially, is not feasible with current technology.

Older children, perhaps, who are at Intermediate or Advanced levels, with good attention spans, would be better candidates for Skyped instruction.

One parent in Oregon hired me to teach his 8-year old, and while these web-cam lessons were productive, it was my decision to ultimately refer her to a private teacher in her area.

Here is one of our SKYPED lessons. In this case, we had set up a video exchange for easy back and forth musical sharing.

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When all is said and done, Online piano lessons are the wave of the future. Just as cell phones have replaced land lines, taking private and group lessons over the Internet, with improved transmission in the offing, will be considered second nature.

More Examples of Skyped lessons:

Setting up for a Skype lesson to London, England:

A Skyped Lesson to Sydney Australia (piano technique)

Skyping between California and Greece:

Logitech close-up views of the keyboard:

Once again, compare to LIVE lessons (East Bay, California–I’ve relocated to Berkeley!)

Chopin A minor Waltz, No. 19, Op. Posthumous:

Play Through:

RELATED: https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/piano-warm-ups-and-the-art-of-breathing-video/

LINK:

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten