Book Review: The (Well) Informed Piano

The (Well) Informed Piano 

By Miguel G. Henriques

The (Well) Informed Piano

The (Well) Informed Piano begins with a collection of thoughts and ideas of subjective or philosophical content. In addition to these collections, The Well Informed Piano also addresses, technical, artistic and musical ideas and thoughts as well. “The purpose of this work is to share a personal professional experience insight in the field of piano performance philosophy, artistry, ethics, methodology, and technique. This text tries to assume a certain continuity to the major contributions of artists like Ludwig Deppe, Tobias Matthay, Grigory Kogan, Heinrich Neuhaus and George Kochevitsky published works.”

Published last March, Miguel states in the preface of The (Well) Informed Piano, “It is absolutely crucial to approach these readings with an open mind.” Beginning in the Chapter with Operative Thoughts, Miguel shares, “A music that does not reflect the human contradictions can hardly leave a lasting philosophical impression.”… “Certainly, the deepest reason that supported the implementation of this book was the possibility for sharing one’s personal experience. Perhaps it might contribute to motivate the reader in his own learning of the “whole.”

On approaching a musical piece, Miguel mentions that sometimes there is a confusion that can arise between discussion of taste and assessment of stylistic or aesthetic characteristics of a work or interpretative project. He goes on to say that we should always respect other ideas about a given work, considering them as potentially valid, even if they are different from ours. In this chapter he dives into the different decades, the tastes and styles of those times, the musical languages and characters to be understood. “The starting point for learning a musical piece should be simultaneously the ultimate goal: the expression of the “character” that translates its most inner aesthetic meaning. Here, the term “character” is used subjectively and comprehensively: it can refer to any psychological, emotional or philosophical experience.”

In Chapter 4, The Performance Project is introduced. I particularly enjoyed a personal story shared in regards to an “annoying fly” that he was eager to kill but something his son had said the day before had potentially saved the fly’s life and in turn became not only tolerable but memorable and would continue to be in relation to the piece he was working on at that time.

In regards to formalism and judgment of music, Miguel says, “Music is at one time an art and a living science: it does not comply with intellectual arrogance and dogma. It is a profession that requires great intelligence and creativity and, therefore, great openness, flexibility, curiosity and humbleness. In the artistic world, one who pretends to know everything, or even a part, puts himself at serious risk of being reduced to a simple mime. Before the imposition of a text, it is necessary to learn the context. Silence will only be worth to be ripped off if one managed to previously enjoy it. In artistic professional coexistence, it must be defended above all, the ethics in working relationships between colleagues, and the respect for everyone’s freedom of expression.”

Miguel makes an address to the general public, musicians and teachers. In the address he states, “One of the things that strike me as disturbing in the tradition of intellectual and pedagogic work is the difficulty of sharing information. The explanation, which considers that musicians do not have the slightest interest in verbal language, preferring exclusively the virtues of musical language, is, of course, absurd. For as most extraordinary and powerful as the music may be, its study cannot fail to be complemented with its verbal communicating substance. When the more theoretical or more subjective information about music is not accessible or shared, the present and especially the future generations are severely handicapped.”

The chapter on Pianistic Technical Learning is filled with topics on the mind, body, piano practice, daily routine, exercises, rapid passages, rhythm, sound quality, components and more.

The last chapter concludes with piano performance pedagogy. Miguel gives great advice for teachers, “When starting his own career, a teacher must discover his own style, knowing beforehand that each pupil is always a distinct and unique case. Any method will have to be always adjusted to every student.”

The (Well) Informed Piano leaves the reader to really ponder on his or her own thoughts and ideas on the vast variety of subjects it addresses. After reading The (Well) Informed Piano, you will leave with more of an open mind and eagerness to explore more. In short, you will be well informed.

You can purchase as well as view the table of contents and page samples of The (Well) Informed Piano on Amazon.

Website

Facebook

Youtube Channel

 

About the author

Miguel Henriques

As a music scholar, Miguel Henriques has been publishing and presenting articles and essays in different publications, conferences and symposiums. He enjoys a successful career both as a concert pianist and conductor with several CD recordings. His studies include a post-graduation at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow and a Master’s degree in Piano Performance at the University of Kansas. He was a pupil of Ernestina Silva Monteiro, Gleb Akselrod and Sequeira Costa. Miguel Henriques is involved in different music projects as artistic and cultural producer and promoter. Miguel Henriques holds the position of Piano Professor at the Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa since 1990.

ASMTA Conference: Making a Living as an Independent Music Teacher

By Lee Galloway

IMG_2505

Balancing of life- family, friends, health, environment you live in- anything getting neglected?

It’s important to know what your values are. Characteristics, attributes, beliefs- respect, love, consistency,art, physically, peaceful, business, etc…

Find the value words that speak to you. Narrow down to 10 words then put in order of importance. How much does it manifest in your life.

A mission statement should have 4 components-

-what you do

-who you do it for

-what the benefit is for them

-what the benefit is for you

ie:

-I teach piano

-to children age 7-10

-enriching their lives with music

-earning enough to pay my bills easily (Last statement is most likely for your own use.)

 

It is important to write things down (goals, etc…) as the subconscience usually takes over.

Read books

 

ie: If you can have it anyway you wanted, how would you schedule your week.

Make a goal and visualize

It might not be immediate but it will get there.

 

ie: Lee wanted to make a goal to stop teaching by 7pm. Two years later he was there.

Before making this goal if he had an opening after 7pm he would fill it. But after making his goal, if he would have an opening after 7pm instead of immediately filling it, he would feel his sub-conscience take over and not fill it.

 

10 Techniques for improving the efficiency for your studio

– Value yourself- Charge what you are worth. You value yourself more and become better over the years.

– Advertise- ie: water pipe example- loading the pipe from one end, the other end you want people calling you. It takes a while for the stuff in the pipe to get to the other end. Keep your name out there, then the calls come. Then they fill up, they stop advertising. They are still getting calls, then the pipe empties out, the calls stop. Keep the pipe full.

– Hold a free interview/sample lesson

– Teach adults- Upside- lessons are less intense, can come during the day. Downside- expectations unrealistic,

– Reactivate previous clients- see if they want to come back (works really well with adults). He will mail a calendar to previous students, reminds them of your name/business.

– Ask for referrals- referral benefits are not necessary. They are glad to give you referrals, they just don’t realize you have openings. Just need to tell them.

– Giveaway or sell extra books- stick in a box- 1/2 price books, or buy 2 get one 3 etc…; gives books away for participation. (great idea for group classes and camps); Include your books in your tuition. Simplifies things so much!

– Make lessons longer- analyze which students can benefit from longer lessons. You are looking within your studio.

– Payment plans- These vary. Some options can be by lesson (not preferable); by the month- how many weeks in a month; 4 per month system- 4 lessons each month- same amount each month; averaging system- like tuition system but a little different- figure out how many weeks to take off, 40 lessons a year. Multiply that number then divide that and figure out monthly tuition (paying for an installment of lessons); Tuition system- charge for a semester and then can choose payment options.

-The best way to be an efficient teacher is to be an excellent teacher.

“How lucky we are in our field to change people’s lives one on one…. to do it with music, what can be better then that… the one subject the one art that penetrates to the very of our being of one’s soul…. appreciate yourselves”

 

 

ASMTA Conference: Music Play- Applying Music Learning Theory in the Studio

Presented by Hannah Creviston

IMG_6232

IMG_2503

Music Learning Theory is an explanation of how we learn music. It is our responsibility to teach children first before teaching piano as each child is different. Then teach music, through the piano.

Create musicians. Whether or not they like it, they can appreciate it. Engage in the learning process- PLAY. We should teach music the way we learn language.

ie: Baby- listen, absorb, inflection, facial expression, question/answer- give and take by the conversation…. just by listening. Then they start babbling, parents encourage the try at communications… Then they take their sounds, and attaching meaning to them. Then more correctly, they start to imitate language- words, questions, thinkings, words have meaning… Then they start to improvise, create sentences without imitating, ask own questions, create stories. Then they read and write. and so on… 

A good Ted talk to watch- Music as a Language: Victor Wooten

Silence can be uncomfortable for people. Enjoy what a rest or grand pause can do. Keeping audience on edge, what is going to happen.

  • Processing- needs time to process.
  • Give the appropriate response time. Some students will be quick, some will be longer.
  • Audiation- hearing and comprehending music in one’s head when there is no sound present and there may have never been that sound present. (ie: singing a phrase and not singing the last note but knowing what it will be) Understanding patterns.
  • Anticipation

 Listening– slightly different then silence- creating environment giving things to listen to that are going to help them learn what is appropriate in a given music situation.

  •  Acculturation- becoming used to. Variety of modes, meters, etc… so they become used to lots of different genres. Give listening homework assignments.
  • Music Vocabulary- ie: jazz musicians, scale (know what it sounds like as a chunk), chords, etc… Can build on that vocabulary when teaching notation.
  • Sound before symbol- if they can’t hear something, it’s going to be hard to replicate it on the piano.

 Movement– is intertwined with music. Movement is fun. The best way to understand it is to engage your whole body.

  • Body Awareness- we use our entire body when we play the piano. Through movement we learn how to engage our bodies. Feel the music.
  • Breathing- Engage breathing as you are playing, phrases…
  • Relaxation- notice when you are engaging and releasing tension.

Self space, shared space, weight space, time and flow

Finding the beat and put it somewhere on your body (tapping, walking, rocking, etc…)

A good way to help students not rush is rocking back and forth or more flowing movement. Feeling the space in between the beats. Not rushing from one beat to the next. (clapping and marching are easy ways to rush)

Improvisation– Create rhythm and tonal patterns. It’s how students demonstrate what they know and understand. Give guidelines and criteria to help them be successful. Start with improv on black keys. Activity idea using 5 finger patterns- beat one start on C, beat 8 end on G- do whatever in between…

  • Fully develop audiation
  • Demonstration of what students understand

Patterns- little chunks/words in musical phrase. Rhythm and tonal. Similar to words in a sentence. Using these patterns helps learning to sight-read. Recognize patterns. Imitate and now do something different then switch roles. Patterns help students comprehend how musical parts fit together to form musical wholes (Edwin E. Gordon)

 

Review: Music Words Game

When I was attending the PianoAccent session of our state conference, I was one of the lucky winners of Gail Fischler’s Musical Word game. I was happy that I was able to try it out with one of my last summer camp classes before we headed into break.

Musical Words is a board game based on The Musical Adjectives Project. The project was founded by Dr. Gail Fischler of the Piano Addict blog. Collecting and categorizing adjectives and images, with her students at Eastern Arizona College, to aid pianists and musicians in describing and understanding the emotions and character within repertoire. Gail says “The original inspiration was a wonderful reference handout (now dog-eared and very, very faded) by Maurice Hinson which consisted of an entire page full of adjectives.”IMG_6416

Included is the game board, game cards, directions and tips. There are a couple ways to play the game which is included in the directions. It can also be adapted to your ideas as well.

The way we played it in our camp session was like this…

Students first wrote down adjectives on the game board with a white board marker (Game board can be purchased laminated or non-laminated. I recommend just getting it laminated). Then they rolled the dice. When they landed on an adjective they had the choice to sight-read a piece using that adjective or improv something using that adjective. None of my students had their music with them for this particular camp session which is why I decided to go the sight-reading and improv route with the game.

IMG_6418If students landed on draw a card, then they would draw a card that would give them a “reward” such as moving forward so many spaces or “obstacles” such as sitting out one turn. Some of the cards had a little bit of both a reward and obstacle in the same card.IMG_6415

IMG_6414

We had a good time playing the game. I am definitely going to use it again with all my students in upcoming group classes and/or camps. This game doesn’t need to be played in a group setting, it can easily be played with student and teacher. The great thing about Musical Words that many games don’t do is that it gets the students playing, sight-reading, improvising and really paying attention to what the character of the piece is and how they can portray that to their listeners.

I asked my students if they had any other ideas that might be fun to implement with this game for a future class. Because the action in my grand was taken by my piano technician (can’t wait until it comes back) we used the Clavinova in the studio lab room. This gave one of my students the idea that it would be fun to use the different sounds and instruments the Clavinova provides. I thought that would be a real fun idea! So next time we just might try that!

Here is a short video of Gail demonstrating the game.

Now the really fun part! Gail Fischler has offered to do a giveaway of Musical Words. Thanks Gail! To enter, just leave a comment below. Deadline to enter is this Monday, June 30th, 10:00pm (AZ Mountain Standard)  GIVEAWAY HAS EXPIRED

Be sure to like FPSResources on Facebook to stay up to date on giveaways, reviews and other music resources!

 

Review: Music Whiteboards

When I attended the Arizona Music Teachers Association conference last week, I was able to briefly meet Gina Barton of MusicTeacherLesson.com. Gina was one of the exhibitors and was selling music whiteboards. I had a good size whiteboard in my lab room and it will still get used during group games like this one…

d19dd-img_4285

…But I have been wanting an actual music whiteboard for awhile. As soon as I saw the extra large music whiteboard at the MusicTeacherLesson booth I was very excited and knew I had to take advantage.

IMG_6275

The MusicTeacherLesson whiteboards are magnet dry erase boards. Over 60+ concepts can be taught on it. Gina includes a list of many ideas of things you can do with your whiteboard when you purchase from her. In addition to the extra large board that I have on my wall, Gina also has smaller boards. The small boards are 8 1/2x 11″. The medium board is 17×11″. The large board is 23×17″ and the extra large (the one I now have on my wall) is 3’x2′.

Here is the medium size board sitting on my Clavinova so you can get an idea of the size.

Medium Whiteboard

All the boards have the same layout. The keyboard at the top. The grand staff in the middle and then the lines at the bottom for chord work. I love that they include all 3!

Before… (we were doing a jungle theme the year this picture was taken…)

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 4.18.38 PMIf you saw yesterdays post then you got a sneak peak of the after… (Doesn’t it look so much better?!)

Piano Lab

I was already inspired to make some letter magnets to use with my new whiteboard… (All you need is your letter printout, decoupage, glass gems and magnets for the backs) I’m going to make some colored one’s and smaller one’s as well.

magnets

I wish I had pictures of my students using the new whiteboards but they are on break. So I would encourage you to go to MusicTeacherLesson.com to see pictures of other students using the boards. I am looking forward to using these whiteboards in both private and group lessons. I predict that they will got a lot of use over the years! While I do enjoy using technology resources, it’s also good to get hands on and use those small motor skills. These boards give the opportunities for some good old fashion tactile activities.

MusicTeacherLesson.com is offering free giveaways (over $215 worth!). The giveaways expire August 31st. All you need to do is post on the MusicTeacherLesson Facebook page here, different ways you can come up with using their boards. You can post as many times as you like. There will also be a prize for the person who shares her Facebook and website the most. The most creative winners will receive prizes from Small to Medium size boards with magnets, dry eraser and board cleaner.

Also you can take advantage of a 20% off sale by inserting promo code: MUSIC2014 when you go to the online store. Bulk pricing is also available if you want to take advantage of several boards for students. (See website for pricing info)

Just a quick side note: In addition to whiteboards, Gina also sells piano pedal extenders (on sale for $139.99), adjustable benches and even music doorbells (something I’m thinking of getting) on her website. So be sure to check those out as well!

Organizing and Updating the Piano Lab

I teach on my Yamaha Disclavier in my living room. Adjacent to it is my piano lab room. This is the room that I get to have FUN with! So this weekend I wanted to organize and update the look of the room. I was running out of room for all my piano games and manipulatives so I got rid of my cubbies that I didn’t use at all last year and replaced them with two 9-drawer units from IKEA. (Amazon has these too, but they were asking twice the amount! So I opted to get them straight from IKEA)

When I opened the package I was a little worried because nothing was labeled. I had two of these to put together so I knew it was going to be an all day project. My husband owns a videography business on the side and June is his busy month. He had a video shoot that afternoon and was busy editing for the morning. So I was on my own, or so I thought…

IMG_2676When it comes to projects like these, my husband just can’t help but sit back. He came in for a minute, watched for a few and then started to help! What a man! I was so grateful let me tell ya! So he was able to help me with the outsides before he had to take off for his shoot.

IMG_2678

IMG_2679

IMG_2680

Then the rest (the drawers) were all mine…

IMG_2681
IMG_2683

A couple years ago my husband did custom bookshelves for me. So here it all is with the shelves and drawers…

Bookshelves and Drawers

This room has wood floors and there were areas that the wood was starting to chip. If you walk in barefoot chances are, you may walk out with a sliver. I have been wanting to get a music themed rug for this room for awhile because of that, but rugs are not cheap! Then I saw a picture of a piano rug from piano teacher, Stephen Hughes and asked where he got his. Walmart was the answer if you could believe that! And it was in the price range I could afford. So I ordered the large one and here it is! I love it, it’s soft, just the right size and looks great. If you are thinking of ordering it, just know that the white is more of a creme. That didn’t bother me for my purposes.

KeyboardRug

So now we turn to the other side of my piano lab room and you will see my Yamaha keyboard and Disclavier and the iMacs. But if you look in the middle, the whiteboard is what I am excited about because this is brand new! I bought it at our state’s music teachers conference and can’t wait to put it to good use. I will be reviewing the whiteboard tomorrow so stay tuned on that…

Piano Lab

Now a little more on my IKEA drawer units. I saw a few that could work, but fell in love with the Alex 9-drawer unit. I figured these would give me what I wanted most out of them.

Here are the bottom four drawers which are deeper. The 3 bottom drawers on the left are my “piano craft” drawers. The drawers on the right are game and manipulative drawers.

Drawers1

Then the top 5 drawers are not as deep, but perfect for the flashcard and flat games. The top left drawer is where I put all my game markers, dice and magnets, etc.

Drawers2

Here is a better example of the bigger drawer. This one has my Whirligig games in it.

Largedrawersample

Then the smaller drawer sample has mostly TCW games with a few others inside.

Smalldrawersample

I can’t wait until my students see the updated look! It’s always fun to update and organize! I feel so accomplished!

Review: Rhythm Cup Explorations

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 7.15.52 PM

When Wendy Stevens came out with her Rhythm Cup Explorations book, I knew it was a winner before I even bought it. I also knew that I just had to have it and couldn’t wait to use it at our summer piano camp. I know by now that most of  you have probably heard about this book, but just in case you haven’t I thought I would share my experience with it.

For my bigger groups I downloaded the book onto two iPads and had one at each end of the table. For my smaller groups I had it up on the wall via my projector. It seemed to work pretty well. One of my groups was a mix of different ages and levels so we used the basic units. (Mixed groups were my “hurry out of town” option for camp. Otherwise the groups were separated into K-6th; 7-12th)

IMG_6194

IMG_6193

IMG_6331

 

We played the Rhythm Cup Explorations on our 1st day of camp which was a patriotic theme so I used patriotic music as the background (Stars and Stripes Forever, This Land is Your Land…) to our cup rhythm fun! I kept forgetting to take video’s and the pictures above are the only one’s I remembered to snap. But here is a video of two students doing the cups to Stars and Stripes forever.

 

Rhythm Cup Exploration is a reproducible book that is divided into 4 units. The units include: Quarters, Half notes, Quarter rests, Eighth notes and rests, Triplets, Sixteenths. There is even an international version available (quavers, semi-quavers, etc…)

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 7.24.34 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 7.25.51 PM

 

Rhythm Cup Explorations is truly a must for the studio. It can be used one on one with student and teacher or in a group setting. Regardless of the setting, students will love it! One thought I had that we ended up not having time for is using this book with boomwhackers. It would be fun to hear what adding in the pitch from the boomwhackers with the fun rhythms would sound like. Another time perhaps.

Summer is the perfect time to join the cup craze and purchase Rhythm Cup Explorations here.