The Director’s Corner features articles written by Steven Bianchi that could be of interest to those studying music (and their parents). The subjects include articles about practicing, composers and the world of music.
Contact the Director of the ASM, Steven Bianchi at firstname.lastname@example.org
Presently there are three articles available followed.
Frederic Chopin | How to Help Children Practice | Performance Etiquette
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) is one of the foremost composers of music for the piano. His music is categorized under the general heading of Classical music, but the more specific period of music he represents is the Romantic period. Born in Poland, of French and Polish parents, this highly acclaimed youngster left Poland in 1830, never to return, and made his home in Paris, France. War torn Poland often found a place in his musical themes. Also, majestic, proud, sorrowful, sentimental and folk themes are found throughout most of his compositions.
He wrote predominantly in a salon style, which means shorter musical forms often of a programmatic Romantic nature. Most of his works are miniatures that are highly poetic and lyrical in nature.
When one considers the sounds Chopin grew up with, the music of the late Classical period, one realizes the enormously revolutionary scope of Chopin’s style. The advent of the damper pedal on the piano, and the music of the Romantic Irish composer John Field both contributed to the style of Chopin’s music.
What is utterly amazing is that his first book of 12 etudes, opus 10, is beautiful, difficult and revolutionary. This work changed the course of piano history and he wrote it at the age of eighteen! Not only did he change the course of piano music by innovating new textures, harmonies and technical demands, but he reached levels of beauty that have never been surpassed, a true sign of genius.
Another unsurpassed aspect of this composer is that virtually every piece he composed is acceptable on the concert stage.
Listening to or playing his music never ceases to amaze me. The sheer depth of beauty found within every measure of his compositions. The poignant, comprehensive pursuit of the inner most feelings of the human drama inspired an incomparable music. This style had an effect on the other Romantic composers of his day and of subsequent generations. Also, his style had an influence on popular ballad songs of contemporary and popular music.
I recommend, for first time listeners, recordings of his Nocturnes. However, literally anything with his name on it will make for pleasurable listening. For burgeoning pianists it could prove to be quite inspirational.
How to Help Children Practice
This area is designed to help the parents and students of music study to effectively organize and fully appreciate the time of their practice sessions.
First of all, we must start with the idea that practicing should take place everyday. Music study parallels language study. It must be a daily pursuit. Since music lessons are held usually once a week, if nothing constructive happens between lessons, progress will be extremely slow. Imagine having your child study math with a teacher for only one session a week for 30 minutes, with no homework between lessons. Progress would be extremely slow. This will also happen if the student of music does not practice daily.
Some of the benefits, for beginners, of practicing everyday are: quicker fluency and recognition of names of notes and rhythms, quicker development of the necessary motor action for playing your instrument, and quicker participation in the beautiful experience of making music effortlessly.
Suggestions for attaining an effective practice routine:
- Find a specific time for practicing everyday. In this way, the clock will determine when the child practices and it is not left up to the discretion of the child.
- Repeat all activities (pieces) at least three times everyday, to play a piece once is truly a waste of time, nothing is learned this way. Even a piece that is mastered will bring many benefits to the student if repeated enough. Mind you, how you are using your brain while repeating an assignment is very important, but this will be the topic of discussion another time.
- Work primarily at the “difficult” sections of a piece. One of my teachers told me “ pursue that which is difficult, master it, and then you will make progress.”
- When working at a difficult section break it down into small sections, which can reasonably be worked at during one practice session. The next day, work at another portion of the difficult passage.
- Be sure your assignment is clear and that you understand exactly what is expected of you. If it is not clear, speak to your teacher about this immediately.
- Sometimes young students benefit from a parent practicing with them for part or all of their practicing session. This can help the child to focus upon the task of practicing more efficiently. Also, the parent’s presence can be inspiring and lend and air of importance to this activity because the parent was willing to take time out of his/her schedule in order to be involved with the music studies.
Participation in a performance class or recital involves more than just practicing your pieces carefully. It also involves understanding the proper etiquette while attending the event.
Please try these suggestions:
Be very quiet while someone is performing. The level of concentration required while performing is incredible. Distractions can cause problems for the performer.
Dress nicely to show respect for the value of this experience. Music is one of the greatest of all the arts, and it benefits the human condition in so many ways. Also, dressing nicely shows respect and appreciation to the other performers.
Never leave your seat during a performance, wait until there is applause.
Never talk during a performance, wait until there is applause.