Quotes: The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

― Theodore Roosevelt, Citizenship in a Republic, quoted by Sorkin, Too Big to Fail

Quotes: infinity

Take a piano. The keys begin, the keys end. You know there are 88 of them and no-one can tell you differently. They are not infinite, you are infinite. And on those 88 keys the music that you can make is infinite. I like that. That I can live by. But you get me up on that gangway and roll out a keyboard with millions of keys, and that’s the truth, there’s no end to them, that keyboard is infinite. But if that keyboard is infinite there’s no music you can play. You’re sitting on the wrong bench. That’s God’s piano.

「拿鋼琴來說,
鍵盤有始有終,你知道有88個鍵,錯不了。
並不是無限的,音樂是無限的。
在琴鍵上,你可以奏出無限的音樂。我喜歡,我能應付得來。
下了船後,前面的鍵盤有無數的琴鍵。事實如此,無窮無盡!
鍵盤是無限的,無限大的鍵盤,你要怎麼彈出音樂?
這不是給凡人彈的,那是上帝的鋼琴。」

―from movie La Leggenda del Pianista sull’Oceano (The Legend of 1900/海上鋼琴師)

Quotes: experiences as purposes

No experience is a cause of success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences, so-called trauma – but we make out of them just what suits our purposes.

―Alfred Adler

(無論任何經驗,它本身並不是成功也不是失敗的原因。我們不要因自身經驗所產生的衝擊(也就是心理創傷)而痛苦,而要由經驗中找出能夠達成目的的東西。不要由經驗來決定自我,而是由我們賦予經驗的意義來決定。

―阿德勒,節錄自岸見一郞、古賀史健著 《被討厭的勇氣》 )

ABRSM Speedshifter app for slow practice

Listening is crucial in piano learning. Through listening we  capture the mood and full picture of the music. But in some cases when I ask my piano students listening to the recording,  some complain they cannot follow every notes in the running passages. Moreover they tend to follow the “performance tempo” that pianists played in the recording. Obviously their technique are not capable to cope with that tempo at the early stage of learning so stumbles are often found.

I find Speedshifter, a IT tool from ABRSM is useful in this situation. Speedshifter officially is designed for instrumental students for practice. This tool can change the overall tempo of the recording from an audio file, make it faster or slower in different degrees, and play it out. In other words instrumental students can use this tool to alternate the tempi of piano accompaniment, usually slower the accompaniment at the beginning, and then speed up progressively to reach the “performance tempo”.

I use this tool in another way. I let my piano students listening to the original version of recording first. Then I use this tool to slower the tempo of recording some how similar to the “slow practice tempo”.

Speedshifer is free for download on PC and Mac. This tool is also available as mobile app for ios and andriod, and have both free and paid version for both OS.

You may find more information from the following ABRSM officially page

http://hk.abrsm.org/en/exam-support/practice-tools-and-applications/speedshifter/

Copyright © 2016 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved

Game for extending attention and memory span

This is an era of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Thanks the rise of smart phone, we like reading whatsapp messages and facebook, and even watching clips anytime and anywhere, such as crossing the road! And how about kids? Well, I find that they are more impulsive than us! I used to teach piano to early age students. But as I teach them over years, they gradually turn into teenagers. So I miss teaching early age students for certain years. Recently after the graduation of my old students, new generation of students starts. I start to teach several piano beginners. They are around 5-7 year old. They tend to get bored easily when doing some activities such as reading which are static and need higher degree of concentration. And the situation is worse than my old generation students.

Piano playing involve the integration of physical and mental coordination of our body. Some of my pre-grade students feel chaotic when they read two staves simultaneously.

Yesterday, during the piano lesson one of them teach me the following game:

The game starts with saying

"Yesterday I ate/drink ......"

Rules:

This game involves at least two persons.

We take turns to say what we ate (or pretend to eat 🙂 ) yesterday, but each one have to repeat what all other say before adding your part.

There is a tricking rule that we need to involve quantifiers for what you’ve eaten. And the quantifier must start from one and grows cumulatively. Furthermore quantifiers serve as memory cues in this game.

The game runs like this :

Me: Yesterday I ate one bowl of rice.

Student: Yesterday I ate one bowl of rice and drink two bowls of soup.

Me: Yesterday I ate one bowl of rice, drink two bowls of soup and three bars of chocolate.

 

My little student said the quantifier reaches 20 when they play this game at school. I tried two rounds of this funny game to this little student. There are lots of fun and laughs when we imaginatively include some strange stuff within the game. Then she played score with two staves more easily than before the game.

 

Of course this funny game is not for you to do confession on what you really ate yesterday. Instead , I hope this can serve as dessert during piano lesson and extend students’ attention and memory span poco a poco. Improved attention and memory span can in turn helps us memorizing music faster and more accurately. This game also can act as preparation to the melody and rhythm memorization in ABRSM aural tests (for example aural test 4A-8A, and rhythm recall test at the end of aural test in Grade 4-7) . And the game can even improve our sight reading indirectly.

Sight reading involves a process called “read ahead“. There is usually a time lag between we read the notes on the score and realize (play) the notes on the piano. The time lag depends on several factors such as how you are familiar with the piece, your musical understanding and playing technique, your familiarity with keyboard geography, and the difficulties of the piece you play. In order to compensate for the time lag we are trained to read a bit ahead while we play. So overall we play the piece continuously and on time while we are reading the score.

Extended attention and memory span somehow expand our cache capacity of the brain. So we can process more information simultaneously and more fluently. In turn, this facilitates “read ahead” process in sight reading.

Hope you enjoy the game!
Copyright © 2016 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved