With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow nor an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to Choose.
(If Beethoven gives us the courage to fight, then Mozart gives us the infinite confidence.)
―傅雷， <傅雷音樂講堂>內 《独一无二的艺术家莫扎特》(一九五六年莫扎特誕辰２００週年文章)
Music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music.
音樂，即使在最恐怖的環境下，都不應該令耳朵受罪， 反而是要安撫它， 吸引它， 這才是音樂之道。
―Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.
Last week in a piano lesson, I explained to one of my students that the direction of stem of music notes changes with their location in lines and space of music notation. She asked me why she should obey that rule. Aha, that’s a good question. When we learn the instrument, we must also learn how to read the score. We are asked to memorize pitch names, different type of note duration and other notation rules in 5-line staff music notation system. We just have to obey and memorize them hardly.
In these few years I come across with students with dyslexia. What we think simple tasks are actually difficult for them. Through teaching them piano I know more about the hidden design of music notation. For example, one of my student have spatial problem. She feels messy with right/left and up/down concepts. For example we read and play notes of the notation from left to right. And the pitches of piano gets higher also from left to right. When the notes go with piano the same direction, for example ascending scale, she can manage to play. But when the notes are presented not in the same direction as the piano, for example, a few ascending notes follows by descending notes, she will get stuck. The situation even gets worse when both hands also need to play notes in different directions.
Hope this year I can spend more time to investigate more on this topic.
By the way, today is the first day of Chinese New Year. Wish you all stay healthy and happy in this rooster year 🙂 .
Copyright © 2017 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved
When I learnt dotted rhythm around Grade 2 -3, I came across the dotted quaver. And most of the time the dotted quaver follows by a semiquaver and forms a rhythmic pattern like this:
I keep wondering why this pair of notes do not appear in retrograde, i.e. a semiquaver follows by a dotted quaver. Later I know that this pair of notes has a specific name: Scotch snap.
From Wiki, Scotch snap is a prominent feature of a kind of dance tune Strathspey. You can watch Strathspey in the following clip:
It is interesting to find a piano piece from upcoming ABRSM grade 7 piano exam syllabus with a “Scottish” title while composed by an American female composer Amy Beach. From the program note in the score (This is published as album At the Piano with Women Composers by Alfred.) it states that Scotch snap and the lowered-seventh scale step (C-natural in measures 8, 16 and 36) show Scottish influences.
This piece is full of chordal passages, whatever in the beautiful, expressive outer sections and animated middle section. This may be challenging for small hands but luckily the composer marked some fingering and altogether with editor’s pedal marking can help overcoming the problem. I only have around one-octave hand span for my right and left hand and enjoy playing this piece very much.
I search Spotify and find some recordings of this piece. I like the following recording. This is performed by pianist Joanne Polk. She has recorded the complete piano works of American composer Amy Beach (1867–1944) on the Arabesque Recordings label. The following recording is from her first recording in the Amy Beach series, by the still waters, which received the 1998 INDIE award for best solo recording.
I also find this grandious transcription as symphonic band in Spotify. I always like this kind of transcription of piano solo piece into other orchestration. This gives a fresh perspective in enjoying the same musical work.
Postlude: I highly recommend you to obtain the original score from album At the Piano with Women Composers by Alfred. I find the score of Scottish Legend is available freely in imslp but no fingering is included. And the pedal marking by the editor is more precise in Alfred edition. Moreover the album includes beautifully tunes from less known female composers. I especially like the final piece in the album: Nocturne in Bb major by Maria Szymanowska. This gives me lots of inspiration in playing Chopin’s music.
Copyright © 2016 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved
Music speaks our feeling and emotion. However it’s not an easy task to talk about feeling and emotion in piano learning. Some students are too shy to share their opinions, while some may not be able to pick up appropriate words fully express their feelings. In recent months I am busy with preparing students for their piano exam and find an interesting way to teach this topic incidentally.
I have a student preparing for grade 5 piano exam in this autumn. He is introvert teenager and always keeps silence during the lessons. He has played the set pieces for so long period of time. But the performance is still not satisfactory. He keeps playing the pieces rudely with wrong notes and with poor tone colour. I realize that there is something wrong with my student. I keep asking him what’s happening but he just shakes his shoulder and doesn’t want to say.
Yesterday was his second last lesson before the exam but everything still kept the same. I know I should try another approach to deal with this situation. I sat at the piano bench and played the list A:1. I asked him what’s the mood of this piece. He still said nothing. Then I brought out a dice ( yes, it’s a really useful tool in teaching 🙂 ) and told him that there were number 1-6 in this dice. Let’s think about six different character and mood, and assign with different numbers correspondingly. The followings are the mood table created by me and my student:
I asked my student to cast the dice. He got number 4. Then I asked him how to change the mood of piece into “boring”. He said by slowing down the tempo. As I was still sitting at the piano bench, I played the piece again with his instruction and kept asking what else can we do. He said playing the piece in lower register and changing the non-legato touching into legato.
Afterwards we changed the role: I cast the dice and he played the piece. I got number 1 and asked him to play the piece happily. This time thank God his playing was much much better!
This game helps us to explore and re-create the music with different character and moods. And the bonus of this game is precious. It lets me know more about my students. Up till that moment I finally know his definition of “boring” music–music in slow tempo. I also know a bit why he loses interest in piano learning–personally I like slow music and unconsciously I guess he likes it also. So maybe I gave him too much music that he dislikes. Another bonus is that the creation of mood table can reveal the mental state of student. I have a kid student. She seems burn-out in her piano learning. But she keeps silence and says nothing. When I ask her to suggest mood ( of course in Chinese), she keeps saying some adjectives with negative mood.
Hope you and your students also enjoy the game!
Copyright © 2016 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved