Friday, June 7, 2013

PpiF London Launch 6th June 2013

Thank you all for coming and supporting my book launch last night! It was a very successful launch - all thanks to all of you. A special thank you to Bl├╝thner for sponsoring and hosting the event, and Faber Music for being our distributor in the UK & Ireland. Without everyone, the launch would not have happened! Thank you all! Much love,Alice

PPIF Books 1 - 4 Manuscript Pages

PpiF Books (Manuscript pages at the back of each book)

The intention of the manuscript pages is for you to use it when necessary. It is packed in the repertoire book simply to keep all materials (repertoires + theory + manuscript pages) in one book - a 3-in-ONE music book - attractive and compact! Many a times students forget to bring one of the books or all the books. Let's help to make the situation easier for the younger children or busy parents or nannies.

The space in between the five lines are wider than most manuscript papers - this is intentional. This facilitates easy reading and writing for younger students. Make a good use of the given manuscript pages. Voila!

PPIF Books 1 & 2 - Pointers Section

PpiF Books One and Two

Pointer section (holding each note to its full value)

Very often the students do understand the note values (eg crotchet=1, minim=2, semibreve=4); BUT when performing, they do not hold onto the full value. The result is a rather non-legato performance. The students have to be made aware from the verybeginning of their studies that it is necessary to observe this point. Your model performance can enhance this discussion further. Play two versions - the correct and the incorrect versions. Ask the students to listen carefully and describe the difference. I stress again that LISTENING is always an important tool for learning music. Discuss with them and share with them that the version (holding onto the notes to their full values) can make the melody more musical and attractive. Start discussing with your students, friends of PpiF.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

PPIF Book 1 & 2 - Hand Shape

PpiF Books One and Two
Pointer section (hand-shape)

I have discussed on 'the piano stool' which inevitably would have effect on sitting posture leading onto hand-shape too.

The gentle reminder to students is always to hold a good hand-shape in order to produce a better quality tone. It can be tremendously helpful to remind the student - of holding a tennis ball with ease (relax the fingers - enough to hold onto the ball), release the ball and there you are, you have a 'cupped' (relaxed) hand. The tennis ball illustration-example can be difficult for small hands. Avoid squeezing the tennis ball hard! If they do so, the 'cupped' hand becomes stiff. Show them the two joints on each finger (some students have only one joint, so do be sensitive and observant before you give such instruction). We want the joints (of the metacarpals) to make a little natural 'bend' inwards. We have to avoid insisting very curved fingers - they tend to become very stiff and must be checked from the beginning. Stiff fingers produced woody and stiff tone. Ask the students to press the thumb nail at the tip of each finger - play the piano with where the 'dent' is. It does take some time for the students to grasp the hand-shape that you are trying hard to share with your students. I often use this phrase - 'We need a path to take our little puppy for a walk in the park' (if they have a dog, call it by its name - this interaction makes the learning session relaxed and you can stay more 'connected' with them). Hopefully, the student can understand your explanation better and bend their fingers away from the black keys leaving a fairly good space for playing the white keys. For the beginners this visualisation can be very helpful. We know for sure that if the students have short finger nails, that is ideal for playing the keys. You might need to negotiate with teenager girls that long nails are excused only for the short summer holiday. Certainly many wish to paint their nails for summer beauty!

Here I quote the FIVE ps - ppppp - 'Poor posture prevents poetic performance'. Like a ballet lesson, the ballet teacher always insists on a good posture - voila, follow suit...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

PPIF Book 1 & 2 - DISTANCE of the Piano Stool

PpiF Books One and Two
Pointers section (piano stool - distance)

If we are teaching students one after another, sometimes we tend to forget to adjust the distance of the piano stool. We take for granted that every student has the same 'fit'. The concerned question we have to ask ourselves - is the piano stool too close or too far from the keyboard for the comfort of the individual child? Again, a good prompter observation - watch the arms; the hands and fingers (are they cramped?). How about during their home practice - especially when a family has a couple of siblings practising on the piano? You can give some advice to parents that can be beneficial or your students should make it a habit to check by themselves. Some students have a natural instinct thus you need not worry!

Another very simple question - is the stool at the centre of the piano when the student is practising at home? They are seated at the centre of the piano under your supervision when in your teaching room. How about back at home practice?

This is all I have to share at this moment on 'teaching' the students to check on the distance of the piano stool for themselves and to sit in the centre of the piano width during home practice. You must emphasise the importance of these checklists.

Sit comfortably, sit tall!

PPIF Book 1 & 2 - Piano Stool

PpiF Books One and Two
Pointers section (piano stool)

The Pointers section is a gentle reminder to students on the many aspects of playing the piano properly. It reminds one to observe a good sitting posture, hand posture, articulation, dynamics, rests to name some. In this post I am sharing with PpiF teachers a few pointers which we might tend to put little attention to as we jump eagerly into teaching at each lesson.

We teach the students to play. We have to remember that there are many areas we have to be aware besides teaching fingers to play! The physical growth of the student, the make of the piano (eg height of keyboard/stool), distance of stool from piano and position of the stool, key size, etc, etc.

Let's discuss about the stool and the keyboard. Is the stool too high or too low for the student? Sometimes you have raised the piano with castors and castor cups. With the adjustable stool (for height) this is made easier for adjustment to match the raised piano. For unadjustable stool, you might want to suggest some form to raise the seat (use of a cushion) or buy a new piano stool in order that that you can match the difference in the raised height. A helpful observation - watch the student's arms - are they 'hanging' from the keyboard when playing?

Ideally, the feet should rest comfortably on the ground.
We need to consider whether a feet support in the form of a mini stool is necessary. Some teachers provide a mini stool to support the student's feet if the legs and feet are dangling in mid-air. Good observation by these teachers! To these teachers, please make sure that the the knees are not higher than the thighs when the feet are on the supporting foot stool. This can be uncomfortable as it is not a normal position. Next question that I would like to bring forward for food of thoughts - when to withdraw the use of the stool? I have seen students 'outgrown' the use of the stool and the teacher has yet to advise them to stop using the mini stool. We have to monitor very closely. Every child is different. We cannot fix a timeframe for 'using' the piano foot stool. We have always to be observant and to keep each child's interest in mind. They all have different growth spurts.

I wish you good observation on your students and advise them accordingly. Voila!

PPIF Books 1 & 2 - GAMES section!

PpiF Books One and Two - GAMES section

I have introduced this section to make learning elements fun! The learnt elements are revised here. PpiF teachers, you can check your students' understanding ability from this section. Have they grasp your lesson contents? If not it is no harm to repeat but don't dismiss it. Soon, there will be too much on the plate if each new element is not understood properly. Each Game section should take a very short time of your lesson. For students to respond to the activities, I suggest four colours (crayons, Stabilo pens) are enough. I always use only ONE colour for my written instruction. On my even number pages, the alphabet writings are in black (see book cover examples). This makes it clearer than being part of a kaleidoscope of images! However my drawings/illustrations are colourful to attract the students. Your student can use one colour for one exercise (see explanation below).

page 11
The Game section is to confirm Time Name & Time Value.
Exercise a - use pink
Exercise b - use blue
Exercise c - use green
Voila, the student is very happy with his artwork.
If the students are young, you need not insist that they learn to spell the names. This a music lesson not a English lesson. Take it easy!

Page 14
Exercise a - I would draw a box for them to write their answer.
Exercise d - Circle the stepwise notes C-D-E. I would draw a big circle round the three notes. It need NOT need be perfect. The less perfect, the beauty of the artwork!

Page 18
Exercise 2 - if the students are very young, leave this music 'mathematics' until when they are ready. I would box it and write a note for the parents - 'will do this later' and verbally explain to them (if you have the chance to meet them at the end of the lesson). They can understand the ability of their own children whether they are ready for such challenges. Many a times, it will end up the teacher doing the exercise than the little ones!

So much for the Games section now! Watch out more teaching tips from my next posting... Musically yours, Alice.

PPIF Book 1 - Storyline (3)...

Pages 56-57 The White Knight:-

Alice meets the White Knight at the seventh square then the White Knight guides Alice to the eighth square - (hmmmmm?). Alice is now a Queen and there you are, three queens all appear! As we cannot single the Red Queen out for Alice, Lewis Carroll has generously pronounced all as queens - All shall be Queens!

Pages 58-59 All Shall be Queens:-

This tune is very singable - I would challenge my student to compose a B part to it by singing or playing some phrases. Teachers, you can encourage composition of a few phrases. You can help to guide them to balance their composition to the given A Part. Your student has experienced listening and playing many tunes of PpiF Book One. Don't be surprised by their response! Some can compose at this level! For quicker students you can challenge them transposing to G or F major. They might need your guidance for fingering and the key signature. Remember that for such expansion activities at this level, just playing by sense is good enough. You can give them the notated score for confirmation if the student is ready to read the new notes later. Be very careful - avoid overloading the quicker students. This can be detrimental!

Have a beautiful day everyone! More posts to come on GAMES soon... Like in cinemas - next change, akan datang....

PPIF Book 1 - Storyline (2)

And the story continues...

Pg 50-51 The Game of Looking-Glass Chess
Pg 52-53 The White Pawn
Pg 54-55 The Fourth Square
Pg 56-57

Alice tells the Red Queen that she wishes to play a chess game. The Red Queen appoints her to be the pawn of the White Queen. The White Pawn goes two squares ahead - with this in mind, I composed the tune with a skip of notes Middle C - E - G. The fourth square belongs to Tweedledum and Tweedledee (aka 'my fat boys' by the Red Queen). The twins are very 'contrarywise' in everything. I have composed this tune based on this special character of the twins. I like this composition very much. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I have challenged myself to compose this tune which 'contrariwise' in notes, articulation and dynamics!

Bars 9-10 move in opposite direction to bars 1-2
Bars 11-12 move in opposite direction to bars 3-4
Bars 13-14 move in opposite direction to bars 5-6
Bar 15 moves in opposite direction to bar 7
Inevitably, I have to end on the tonic/key note.
The legato notes of Tweedledum are contradicted by Tweedledee's staccato notes.
The dynamics is also 'contrarywise' by Tweedledee!

Enjoy teachers! Please look out for pages 56-57 and pages 58-59 post coming up next!!!

PPIF Book 1 - Storyline...

So here's the story...

Alice has a cat named Dinah. Dinah has two kittens - black Kitty and white Snowdrop. Kitty and Snowdrop love playing together. They are best of friends. On a hot afternoon, Alice dreams that she is curious of a talking rabbit and chase after it. She falls into the rabbit hole - deeper and deeper. The student plays this tune (page 15) twice - second time to play E flat for all Es. They can describe the change of mood in their own words. Encourage them, give them confidence and guide them in their answers. Maybe some descriptive words or adjectives to help them make themselves clearer?

The Garden of Live Flowers scene is chosen at this point. I like the interaction between Alice and the flowers. With this conversation mode in mind, I hope teachers can also interact with your students making your lessons fun and interesting. A summary of the Garden of Live Flowers scene can be found on Game 1 & Game 2 on pages 60 and 61.

I shall post more on pieces other than the Flowers on the next post.....

PPIF Book 1 - Bass Clef Notes & Page numbers...

Bass Clef notes
Page 42-43 Introducing stepwise notes G-A-B-Middle C
Page 44-45 Introducing stepwise notes Middle C, B, A, G
Page 46-47 Revising the above stepwise notes in ascending and descending order
Page 48-49 Confirming Middle C and G
Page 50-51 Confirming Middle C, G and the descending stepwise notes from Middle C with an exception of bar 12
Page 52-53 Confirming G notes with staccato articulation
Page 54-55 Revising the four bass clef notes
Page 56-57 Introducing new note, F using finger 5
Page 58 Double note playing by right hand
Page 59 Introducing new note, B in the treble clef; left hand playing and reading notes written in the treble clef

I wish the above pointers give you a clearer picture on the introduction of bass clef notes. I am ready to share more ideas if there are any further queries. Enjoy!

PPIF Book 1 - Duet Playing

Part three - Duet Playing

Hurray! Teachers, we are coming to the end of the book! The student can now have a new experience - playing duet with a friend. So far, the experience of making music has been much to do with playing duet with you. You are in control of the situation. What happens now when they play by themselves? Is it difficult to play in a steady tempo on their own? Are they having difficulties to play together OR have you instilled in your student a good sense of rhythm and pulse? You can access their sense of pulse from this activity. You can arrange some duets for them to practise and enjoy more. You can also add another part above the Primo or stretch yourself with a lower part on the Secondo. There you are a rich sound has emerged! How about adding some percussion instruments to enhance the final music ensemble arrangement? Voila, from a simple melody, you have created a rich sound for all to enjoy. May I suggest that you add this to your concert programme? Have confidence - parents enjoy their children's performance of any level! Go ahead!

PPIF Book 1 - Left Hand playing...

Part Two - Left Hand Playing...

We move on to Part Two. Left hand plays the Middle C position. Please guide your student how to give a comfortable room for each thumb when required to play Middle C. This position is introduced so as to expand the range wider in order for the student to experience playing familiar songs eg Christmas carols, folk songs . This can be further enhanced when accompanied by the teacher. The notes of Bass Clef were first introduced as a group of four notes. Student can see the descending (Middle C, B, A and G) or ascending four notes (G, A, B and Middle C). Once the concept is understood each individual note is emphasised in the following pieces. Remember you can use the manuscript pages at the end of the book. Markings - tempo, articulation and dynamics are being introduced. Introduce and teach them once the students can already play the notes. Enjoy...

PPIF Book 1 - Terminology

Part One - Terminology

Your student has learned to sing, play and read Middle C to G in the treble clef; some quicker students have also played C to G (left hand) imitating the right hand by rote. Good! We have kept the quicker student interested and challenged!

Have you made the students aware of how these five notes look when written on the Treble Clef? How the notes written in ascending order - like taking a lift going up five floors? Most importantly, the student must visualise and understand the concept of written and aural (this takes some time to develop for some students) ascending notes. Also how these notes relate on the piano/keyboard - going towards the right of the keyboard (make a reference-the window or a clock of your teaching room). It is not easy for a student to understand your terminology 'going up' - 'going HIGHER'. Don't be surprised 'going higher' means lifting the hand higher off the keyboard. Don't laugh I have seen happened many times while observing classes! As teachers we have to be very observant that every word is properly understood. Higher or lower sound is a very natural terminology to music teachers but not to many new students. This is all for now - your TERMINOLOGY when used to your student!

PPIF Book 1 - Let's do some fun drawing + stickers! (For both students & Adults)

PPiF Book One:

Are your children or yourselves doing some drawing in accordance to each piece. Your student can draw in accordance to the title of each piece. The stickers are there for you to use at your discretion. A suggestion: the big stickers can be used for encouragement as a reward sticker for being able to play beautifully or when the student has memorised the piece, the smaller stickers can be used for completing GAMES activities. Children and adults like stickers! There is a child in each adult.

On the even number pages, space is left deliberately for you to illustrate (use that a white teaching board) when introducing the piece. I have some examples on the book cover itself. I am sure your illustration can be very interesting and creative! Just feel free and show your creativity. Go ahead and enjoy!

PPIF Book 1 - Note Reading


It is a good idea to ask the student to read aloud the notes of bars 1 and 2 of each new piece. You can then confirm the student's note reading ability. They would hesitate when a new note appears. For eg, if they read notes of bars 1 and 2 on page 13 as Middle C then hold on teacher, a little problem has popped up. They might not have fully understood your page 11 lesson. They are reading by shape and colour thus the crotchets (quarter notes) are read across as one same note - Middle C. Do not panic - you have nipped the problem in the bud. Make them aware of the difference and carry on reading with the actual score or you can use illustrate further on page 62. Hey-ho... Have fun!

PPIF Book 1 - Rhythm verbalisation (Pg 27, 29, 35 & 41)

May I suggest to introduce pages 27, 29, 35 and 41 by verbalising (semibreve-ta-aa-aa-aa; minim-ta-aa-aa; crotchet-ta; quaver-te) and clapping along STEADILY first before actual playing on the keys. Please avoid counting (eg page 27) 1and 2and 3and 4and... Try verbalising tetetete ta ta. You will be surprised how more effective and more enjoyable than counting in numbers for the students to grasp quavers/eighth notes values. Again, if the little fingers are not ready to play - keep these as rhythm exercise pages - verbalising and clapping - such activity can break monotony in the lesson and also relaxes any stress in the class. Later when the student is ready quavers/eighth note can be played more evenly too - voila - go ahead! Have fun!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Crayons - and how many??!!!

Hello PPiF teachers.

It's the London Marathon today! The sun is out shining, and the first runners are crossing the finishing line! What a lovely day for a marathon - both for the runners and the spectators!

Anyways, Marathon aside!! During my PPIF sessions, one teacher asked me how many coloured crayon sticks does a child need. I strongly suggest at least four of contrasting colour - red, orange, blue and green. This adds variety and the answers become very distinctly clear too. For very young children, if Mathematics skill is not ready, BOX the section (eg page 18 under GAMES question 2a,b and c) - you can introduce this when the child is ready. Have fun with other GAMES activities. Get your crayons ready!

May I suggest to introduce pages 27, 29, 35 and 41 by verbalising (semibreve-ta-aa-aa-aa; minim-ta-aa-aa; crotchet-ta; quaver-te) and clapping along STEADILY first before actual playing on the keys. Please avoid counting (eg page 27) 1and 2and 3and 4and... Try verbalising tetetete ta ta. You will be surprised how more effective and more enjoyable than counting in numbers for the students to grasp quavers/eighth notes values. Again, if the little fingers are not ready to play - keep these as rhythm exercise pages - verbalising and clapping - such activity can break monotony in the lesson and also relaxes any stress in the class. Later when the student is ready quavers/eighth note can be played more evenly too - voila - go ahead! Have fun!

Meanwhile, I am off back to watch more marathon! Come on Runners!!!!

Have a good sunday everyone!

Alice Chua

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Happy belated Easter wishes... From both of us in Taipei, Taiwam

Hi everyone,  apologies for this belated Easter well wishes. I want to share with you the exciting moment when the display of Easter eggs - very huge and mini ones... It is very exciting to see the creativeness of the commercial sector!!!... This year we see eggs packed along not only with bunnies but with chickens, duckies and teddy bears (???)... Nonetheless it is the season to celebrate the resurrection of Christ... If you enjoy music, compose a tune for post-Easter and share with all PPiF enthusiasts... How about with these few notes as the melodic stimuli - mi-fa-so-so-so-do'-so???... (to any rhythmic pattern).  Have fun!!!... With best regards from Taipei, Taiwan - Alice Chua & Mitra-Alice Tham

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hello once again, Spring is here soon with the last taste of snow last week.  How are PPIF users in the Far East?  May I recommend that to know the series more, use one book of each level with existing student from now.  To have a better understanding of the series, start a new student with PPIF Book One and see her//him through the four books.  You will be amazed.  Voila.  Have enjoyable, relax and fun lessons yet keeping the learning element intact!  I wish you the very best.  Alice Chua

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy 2nd day of Chinese New Year!!!

Hello everyone!

Gong Hey Fatt Choi! Gong Xi Fat Chai! Happy 2nd day of Chinese New Year! We haven't stopped eating since Chinese New Year's eve! But that is exactly what i love about Chinese New Year!!

Have just seen the PPIF on Faber Music UK webpage! How exciting! Link is below:

Apologies for not writing in a while! All this preparation for Chinese New Year, cleaning the house, pre-celebrations (but of course! haha!), packing all the red packets, seeing and smelling all the food being cooked at home...and not forgetting to buy new clothes for the Chinese New Year season, everything else seems to have taken a back seat! I think i'm slowly coming back down to the nitty gritty of daily life...

I am still trying to get to grips with all this social media! I THINK i might just be about getting the hang of it....! Perhaps i'm not getting the hang of it at all! Who knows?! haha! Well, the question often should I blog, facebook and twitter? Sometimes I feel like doing it every minute. Sometimes, i don't do it for days on end! I will get there, i know! says me....crossing my fingers.

I have just posted up 6 youtube videos on suggestions on accompaniments for some of the pieces for PPIF Book 1. Please do subcribe to my channel on youtube - AliceChuaPPIF.

Alrightey folks! I'm off to bed now - have an early start!

Have a good week ahead - and i'll keep you guys posted!

Musical love,
Alice Chua

Thursday, January 31, 2013

My First Blog!!

Hello Everyone!

How exciting! My first blog! I am slowly trying to find my way getting set up on twitter, facebook, youtube and blog!

My facebook page is: Playing Piano is Fun by Alice Chua | Facebook
AliceChuaPPIF - YouTube
Playing Piano Is Fun - Blog
Alice Chua - Google+
Alice Chua (AliceChuaPPIF) on Twitter

Please like my facebook page, and follow me on twitter.

Many exciting videos to come too! We have recorded some accompaniments suggestions for this series and will be posting them up very soon.

Let's get down and have some fun!!

Love from London,
Alice Chua