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.