Classical music blog, Classical music piano blog, classissima, classissima.com, piano, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, piano lessons for adults, piano lessons in Berkeley California, piano lessons on the web, piano lessson, piano playing and relaxation, piano playing and the singing tone, youtube.com

When a Virtual Piano Student becomes a Reality!

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 8.51.55 AM

Touchdown! Berkeley, California! An Online student landed in the East Bay just as the Carolina Panthers were bracing for a Super-Bowl match-up with the Denver Broncos in Santa Clara.

Sports-crazed fans were headed for a Big, crowded weekend with tailgate parties, packed hotels and traffic jams!

But my traveling, jet-lagged pupil from North Carolina had no interest in following the football event. Weeks in advance, she’d scheduled her LIVE lesson in Berkeley, with an additional request to sit in on one of my local student’s classes.

It was a slam dunk without a hitch as our scheduled doubleheader turned into spontaneous three-way sharing: an off-the-cuff exchange about LIVE lessons as compared to those transmitted Online. (by Skype and Face Time).

Naturally, April had experienced both sides of the lesson-receiving spectrum while Laura possessed a home-based perspective, and I had both.

So the inevitable outcome of our collective conversation was a recorded interchange without a shred of resemblance to the hair-raising mega-produced commercials that run full blast during Super-Bowl breaks.

This is the real deal, uncensored and refreshingly honest.

 

 

arpeggios, arpeggios in 10ths, Classical music blog, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, piano technique

An Adult Piano Student teaches the Teacher

Awakenings alternately occur between teacher and student, especially if they’re collectively open to them. And embracing this sharing spirit, I welcome ideas from pupils about phrasing, technique, etc. since we enjoy a common journey of discovery.

By chance, one student brought a “new” fingering for his assigned D Major arpeggio in 10ths, and it worked so well that I tried it and liked it. Naturally, it wove its way into my recommended repertoire of fingerings and became an ever-flowing gift to other pupils.

In the White, Black, White stream of root position arpeggios  that use LH  5, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, etc. against RH 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, etc.. in the sequence for example of D  F# A,  D  F# A,  D  F# A, D instead of using the Right Hand fingering as a springboard for tenths, where RH F# A  D  F#  A  D  F# would enlist 2, 3, 1, 2,  3, 1, 2, etc. my student suggested for the same Right Hand sequence  2, 1, 2, 4, 1, 2, 4, 1, 2, 4, etc. which provided an inner symmetry between the hands and a nice RH spill into the last octave without an awkward thumb shift at the peak turnaround. (The “new” fingering explored also applies to A Major and E Major arpeggios in 10ths)

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 12.28.22 PM

The video below examines the feasibility of the revised fingering, showing its ease especially in brisk tempo. And where a crescendo to the peak note is needed, the RH 1, 2, 4 spread of fingers in the last octave is particularly defining. Viewing the hands together dimension there are convenient chord blocks in respective hands that if practiced in a parceled way, will aid fluency. And once the sequence plays out in broken chord fashion these symmetries will kick nicely into the speed zone.

adult piano instruction, iPhone, iPhone transmitted piano lesson, New York City, North Carolina, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons by Face Time, Piano Street, piano teaching, Piano World, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, wordpress, you tube

Piano Lesson from the Big Apple by iPhone!

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 7.27.10 AM

It’s one thing to fly from California to New York, taking in awesome views from the plane.Over NYC JFK But would I lay back and lapse into surrendering a week of piano instruction just because I had a NYC based family obligation? No way! As long as I had my iPhone as backup, I would try to teach my North Carolina student from my landing on West 97th.

My best friend, Laura, Oberlin alum and ex-Big Apple roommate had given me her West Side digs that came with a rebuilt Steinway B, so I could play away and teach a lesson or two.

Steinway B at Laura

Using the iPhone with its Face Time application was a first for me! Would the tiny mic properly amplify my voice, demonstrations, and could the internal speaker provide the right volume as the student played? It seemed there were many variables to worry about.

Well, not a problem! Everything worked with a couple of shutdowns since I didn’t have my router or hard wire cable which seemed the best hardware for Online lesson transmission.

Some adjustments, however, seemed to improve the iPhone cyberspace: I reduced my USB extensions and switched to cellular, not relying on the local Wi Fi provider. (Different rooms had varied reception, some better than others)

Overall, I think the undertaking was a success– well documented by my tripod mounted camcorder that captured the whole lesson on video.

Here are a few samples:

legato playing, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, piano technique

Piano Technique: Playing LEGATO can be a drag!

One of my favorite verbal prompts to students who have a choppy approach to scales and arpeggios, is: “drag” your fingers from note note–“feel” the weight transfer with imagined resistance. I often talk about flowing “vowels” not consonants through an arpeggio.

Other mental images are equally effective: Think of the piano as a bowl of honey or molasses as you play through it. Avoid a top layer, thin, transparent sound. I’m known to resoundingly nix any semblance of tracing paper. (There I go with mixed metaphors that nonetheless register when students are trying to achieve playing “density.”)

And of course, it helps to have a cooperative piano–one that has some resistance built in re: the down weight, after touch, let-off. I’ve been dealing with this very issue as my Steinway grand’s regulation is on HOLD. The punchings that were cut beneath the notes,Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 1.26.44 PM in conjunction with some other applications, created a piano with barely any friction or resistance to create a seamless legato, so I’ve retreated to the brand new Baldwin that has this capacity. Updates on Steinway M will be reported as they occur. I’m happy to report that first stage improvement is in progress and it’s going to be a long haul.

Back to producing a seamless legato on pianos that have at least minimum potential. As it played out, my long distance ONLINE Fresno student had to psyche out her Baldwin Acrosonic when a voicing issue intruded. An F# in the bass range sounded like a tin can bouncing off a kitchen counter,tin can bent so we had to deal with subduing the note through an F# minor arpeggio in contrary motion. The very process of avoiding an attack on the vulnerable F# invited attentive listening and a semblance of muscle memory.

Here’s a lesson segment that proved to be a real drag in the good sense:

adult piano instruction, Face Time, Online piano lessons, piano, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, piano teaching, Rhythmical practicing, Skype

“Counting Correctly, but Playing Un-rhythmically”

“The habit of counting correctly but playing unrhythmically develops easily in the beginning and is too often overlooked.” – Richard Chronister (A Piano Teacher’s Legacy, Ed. Edward Darling)

http://www.amazon.com/Teachers-Selected-Writings-Richard-Chronister/dp/0976116308

I love this quote, because many students count out beats quite methodically but without musical meaning. Their metrical repetitions serve little purpose if the goal of study is to communicate an art form that is embodied in rhythmic framing with threads of melody weaving through a “singing pulse.”

Dimitri Kabalevsky’s “Clowns” piece from the composer’s Op. 39 Album of Children’s pieces, is the perfect springboard for practicing (behind tempo) with an animated, “living, breathing,” framing pulse that ignites the very mood and affect of the composition right from the start.

In this regard, my Face Time student in London, in his second year of piano study, has made nice gains playing rhythmically and musically. Here he takes a baby step journey in his early exposure to “Clowns,” with a keen awareness of buoyant rhythmic energies that propel his practicing in a chosen, steady, embracing tempo.

Kabalevsky Clowns p. 1

***

In this sample, the pupil practices a five-finger C# minor penta-scale in double tempo starting with 8th notes, to 16ths to 32nds..(ending with staccato, forte and piano)

***

P.S. I always recommend that students enroll in a Jacques Dalcroze Eurhythmics Course. As it happened, my most influential teacher at the Oberlin Conservatory was Eurhythmics mentor, Inda Howland.

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/eurhythmics-a-whole-body-listening-experience-video/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/dalcroze-eurhythmics-on-display-at-the-san-francisco-conservatory-of-music/

adult piano instruction, Dimitri Kabalevsky, Dimitry Kabalevsky, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Kabalevsky, Online piano lessons, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, Shirley Kirsten

Approaching a brand new piece with spirit and emotion

When piano students first encounter a fresh page of music, they will often wade through the notes as best as they can, fumbling here and there without an adjusted framing pulse or investment of animated interest in what the notes are saying beyond their humble, accurate identity.

In this early stage “reading,” tempo is usually far too brisk (and erratic) for the new learner to experience any emotional response to a cascade of dizzying dots and beams. They are consumed with finding the right pitches and nailing them down.

For this reason, I insist that my pupils separate hands, and slow down the pulse to frame a “deep” in the keys, mood-matching connection to a new score because every playing registers a profound imprint in their consciousness. So throw away trials that breeze over the character of a given composition only divert the learner from the essence of the new composition.

By example, I’m working with a student who’s enraptured by the intensely rhythmic and bi-tonal energy of Kabalevsky’s “Clowns,” yet there’s the same propensity to overlook the character/mood of this piece in the initial hit or miss the notes, baby-step learning process.

A changed perspective:

In this video sample, the student takes the right approach, working assiduously on the first section, paying attention to spring forward staccato releases, and notated accents that he manages in a slow tempo framing. It allows him to capture the “feeling” and emotion imbued in this miniature. Naturally, his being “connected” to the circus atmosphere of “Clowns” from the very start makes his learning engagement deeper and more satisfying.

Since Kabalevsky’s two-page composition has notable harmonic patterns, symmetries, agogic accents, inverted motifs, ostinato bass, etc. these present an opportunity to examine theoretical context as an aid to interpretation, noting that no dimension of learning is a pedantic side bar.

Every examination of a piece becomes part of an integrated whole, of which the very first note ignites a rich emotional, cognitive and kinesthetic experience.

Clowns play through:

Early “Clowns” lesson with my student in London, England (first section)

Kabalevsky Clowns p. 1

Kabalevsky Clowns p. 2

blogmetrics, blogmetrics.org, Face Time, Online piano lessons, piano blog, piano blogging, piano lessons, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Skype, word press, you tube

Technology as a valuable piano teaching tool

computer screen

This is not a planned or staged informercial, but one of my students spontaneously reviewed the value of her piano lessons by Face Time, and I snatched her critique on my iPhone. NOTIFICATION: She was not impeded from sharing the down side of her piano learning experience so naturally I was riveted to what would pour forth from rural North Carolina to provide me important feedback.

THE BACKDROP

April and I began lessons by Skype, but in this particular connection we had audio issues, so we decided to try FACE TIME, which was like night and day, by comparison. A few of my ONLINE students have made the same transition, and the transmission greatly improved.

Below is a lesson segment beamed by Face Time from Berkeley CA to North Carolina (The only problem with FACE TIME Record at the time, was it only provided SPLIT SCREEN views on record playback, so the keyboard was therefore attenuated)–UPDATE: FACE TIME CALL RECORDER now has a three-view RECORD option. LOCAL (Full-screen), REMOTE (Full Screen) and SPLIT SCREEN.


Marie in Fresno offered her assessment of Face Time transmitted Piano Lessons:

She had been my LIVE student in Fresno for 7 years before I moved to Berkeley. She then transitioned to ONLINE lessons.

Sherry from Louisville, Kentucky soon enough chimed in about her piano lessons by Face Time:

Yet, Skype has worked exceptionally well in transmissions from Berkeley, CA to Staten Island, New York.

In this example, I was able to demonstrate multiple SKYPE CALL RECORDER PLAYBACK VIEWS that are of great help to a student following his/her lesson. SKYPE affords the opportunity to use multiple cam views while recording is in progress. The student will therefore be able to see full keyboard views on PLAYBACK–(either my piano or the student’s instrument)–plus acquire additional split screen views if I choose to use)

Another TESTIMONIAL

FROM David, a piano student who used to commute for LIVE lessons from CHICO, CA to Berkeley and currently signs on weekly by SKYPE.

Dog one

Shirley,

I like the Skype lessons for several reasons:

1st, I don’t have to drive 320 miles round trip for my lesson every
Tuesday.

2nd, the view of your keyboard is much better and I can see what you’re
doing with a clarity that sitting at the piano next to you doesn’t allow.

But there are some drawbacks to the Skype lesson too:

1st, I don’t get to visit Berkeley and shop at the Monterey Market which
I love!

2nd, I don’t get to fool around Berkeley and explore the restaurants and
other fun things about Berkeley. I know the bartender at a Berkeley bar
and I like to stop in for a (1) glass of wine before heading home to
Chico. It’s nice to “get outa town” once a week.

Overall I am surprised by how good the Skype session is. I wouldn’t have
guessed it would be so good. I’d say it’s every bit as good a lesson as
in-person, and better in some respects.

David

**

So the testimonials have played out, and I’m spared from looking into a camera and sounding like a politician running for office.

My NEXT Stop: The Music Teachers Association Branch Meeting in Oakland to spread the gospel about braving the new technology/teaching piano ONLINE–May 11, 2015–Where: Holy Names University.

By the way we had our first SKYPE/LIVE piano recital on March 15th that globalized our lessons and brought students far and wide closer together.

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/multiple-skype-call-recorder-playback-views-for-a-piano-lesson-j-c-bach-prelude-in-a-minor/

A SKYPE/LIVE adult piano student recital!

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/a-skypelive-adult-piano-student-recital/