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Doniell Cushman loves to use her teaching experiences to inspire ways to improve music, teaching, and learning.
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It's a strange world out there with tons of Gifs that are seemingly never ending. Here I have compiled a great list of musical Gifs for your entertainment, use, etc.
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Bucket Lists are a great way to set goals and to motivate. Whether attainable or not, we as musicians should all have a bucket list of things we want to play, accomplish, or hear. So, I've put together this list to inspire you!
30 Musical Things to Do by 30
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Failure Happens as a musician. A lot. I mean, like A LOT! And you know what? It's okay. It's not the end of the world. Music is an art, an appreciation, a passion. We can't get to the point of elation or success without a few blunders under our belt.
Learning music is difficult enough as it is. Just think about all the combinations of symbols you could have in a piece of music ... it's an endless stream of possibilities. This should make us feel better, but often it leaves us terrified of messing up. And really, we shouldn't fear making bad music. It's all part of the process of learning to be a good musician.
Failure happens largely in executing music, not the comprehension or learning of it. As a teacher, that makes my job somewhat easier because I know I can send a student home with instructions that they can follow without worry. However, when it comes to practicing and performing the concepts learned, we become more fragile and breakable. How can we avoid this? We can't!
How about instead we think back to the first time you poured your own glass of milk. Maybe you dropped the jug and milk spilled everywhere. Maybe you were too small and were chastised by an adult. Or perhaps you dripped milk all over the kitchen trying to get it into a cup. These situations are teaching moments that last with us for a lifetime. We learn how to properly hold and carry the jug of milk, just how to tip it gently sideways, and when to stop filling up. Music is the same side of the coin here. Your teacher is there to guide through the mistakes just like a parent or guardian is for a child learning to pour milk. We want you to make mistakes that you can learn from, and give you lots of praise when you succeed.
Don't take failure too strongly to heart in music. Everyone has a bad day, a bad warm-up, or even a bad song now and again. It's important that instead of becoming overwhelmed or beat-up by the process, we add it to our arsenal of knowledge and practice conquering our challenges daily. No one built Rome in one day, so it goes to show you that failure is something to expect as part of the process. And, just like Rome eventually fell, you too will fall in music. How you bounce is what matters the most though!
There are also times when it is okay to fail, and to let failure have its day. We can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps tomorrow, and try something new, or try what we failed at again. Sure, if we majorly disappointed an audience we can't get that back. But don't let it rule your mind and heart! Learn that humility and grace are key characteristics of a good musician. Understand that the audience appreciates your hard work and effort, even though it may not have pleased them. Grow as a person who has been at all the stop signs and now knows the way better than others.
I'll say it again, Failure Happens. But ... there is always another song, another day, another rehearsal. Let go and enjoy the journey!
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Everyone who is alive and breathing can get distracted even by the tiniest of things. But pianists have some large issues when it comes to distractions. Distractions are anything that pulls us away from the music, or even playing all together. A distraction can be huge and keep you from your practice, or small and make you lose your place. Here are the top five that I have found to be the worst.
1. Housework/Chores are More Important
Maybe you have a guest arriving from out of town, or maybe you have a family with four wild and crazy kids under the age of ten. Whatever the case, your home life is a number one priority to you. So much so, that you can't even get to the piano to play a song. You may go for days, weeks, months, or even years without so much as touching the keys. And while yes, our home life should be comfortable and relatively clean, you CAN make time for piano if you set aside specific time in your daily or weekly schedule.
2. Holidays and Celebrations
I've heard this so many times: "Well, I didn't practice much because it was Thanksgiving." Letting important dates get in the way of practice is an amateur mistake. I always try to encourage my students to actually USE these celebrations as an excuse to play. Take for example Christmas - Have a sing-a-long of your favorite tunes. On a birthday, play your best rendition of Happy Birthday. Granted when you travel, you aren't likely to have the ability to practice, but you can absolutely take your music with you to read and study. Tabletop playing is also encouraged. You can do this by pretending you have a piano in front of you, and using your fingers to play your imaginary keys.
Hey, I get it, I really do. I've suffered from insomnia since I was a child. Being tired doesn't have to equal less practice though. Using aromatherapy such as essential oils can perk your body and brain right up. Orange, Tangerine, Ylang Ylang, Spearmint and Lemon are great pick-me-ups. Another great solution is to eat a heaping spoonful of peanut butter or an orange, wait 10 minutes, then practice. These foods are quick to activate sugars needed for energy and focus in your body. The other thing I would encourage is to pick a time of day when you are most alert to do your practicing.
4. School and Extra Curricular Activities
You make a commitment to learn music and all of a sudden the workload at school is too much. This is a common theme with middle school and high school students in particular. Or maybe, you have a double header soccer tournament over the weekend. For some reason, you believe there is no time in between your school or your soccer, to find time to practice. This is not the case! You know those times in the morning before school when you have extra time on your hands? Sit at the piano and practice part of your assignment! Right when you get home from school is also another great time to practice, as is just before dinner. Especially if you treat dinner as a reward for hard work! Make your schedule find the time that you have nothing to do and work in a song or two at the piano. It IS possible!
Never let a cold or flu get you down. If you are grounded at home on an illness staycation, make sure to bone up on your music. Yes, you're tired, yes you may cough or sneeze, but that shouldn't equal no practice. Start with just reading your music in the comfort of your bed or on your couch. Then, when you are feeling your most alert (right after a nap or just before a meal) practice for a short spurt of 10-15 minutes. This works great in conjunction with placing tissues and sanitizer nearby just in case, and having a glass of orange juice just before for an energy boost. I also recommend essential oils and/or aromatherapy designed to support your immune system or level of alertness.
If you are looking for essential oils for support or aromatherapy, Or are looking for GREAT supplements to help you with focus and energy, use my affiliate link here to learn more:
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Today I will be reviewing the book Piano Repertoire: Romantic & 20th Century at Preparatory Level by Keith Snell. https://kjos.com/piano/repertoire/collections-series/snell/keith-snell-repertoire-series/piano-repertoire-romantic-20th-century-preparatory-level.html
There are many reasons to love this little book - or any Keith Snell book really. It's concise, and to the point for one. At just 16 pages, this Prep Level gem is accomplishable within a year's time for any elementary or beginning student. Even the front inside cover and back inside cover are used for information pertinent to the materials. I love when a book is eco-friendly. For the low, low price of just $4.50 you receive 15 traditional works from the Romantic era through the 20th Century. A 7-year-old could save and purchase this all by their self, it's that affordable.
Included are some of my favorites: Ferdinand Beyer, Louis Köhler, Cornelius Gurlitt, Béla Bartok, and Dmitri Kabalevsky. Clearly printed (or engraved for you technical musician/composers), the music is large and clear tidy. To save space, 2 songs may be printed on the same page due to their brevity and the ability to supply repeats.
Titles clearly list which work the pieces are from with Opus numbers, etc. Furthermore, every composer is listed with their dates, and the back cover has a Composer Biographies that are short and somewhat helpful to understanding the work.
Most of the pieces included in this Preparatory Level are within a 5-Finger Position in the comfortable locations of C, G, F and A Minor. Minimal use of accidentals make the works deceptively simple for beginners, and I've found that penciling in a reminder at the top of the page, or highlighting the Key signature, is a helpful tool. There are limited finger markings that are sensible, which also make the works very approachable for students who are learning new locations and working on confidence and spatial awareness. Therein also lies a good mix of 3/4, 4/4, cut and Common time as well as tempo markings - most of which lie at a moderate speed, making this book a great challenge to accomplish within a year's time.
Coincides with students in, or who have completed with following methods:
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The five essential entrepreneurial skills for success: Concentration, Discrimination, Organization, Innovation and Communication. ~ Harold S. Green
I had a dream years ago when we lived overseas in Germany. Part of it was due to boredom, part of it aspiration, and part of it convenience. This dream was catapulted by a class I took in college called Information Systems Management.
I've always loved Access by Microsoft. I'm an odd duck, what can I say? But seriously, the ability to organize and filter things, create forms and reports ... it did what Excel can do, yet so much more. I wanted to see everything I owned and was (and still am) acquiring in key signatures, difficulty levels, publishers, cost, etc.
The benefits of creating a database of your music library are manyfold. So, let me give you a lending hand as to what you can do.
Now how can you sort this material? By this I mean, what information do you want accessible at your fingertips? Make primary indexes to be book numbers or ISBNs. Titles of books and pieces should be written with overly specific information. Have two sources for the Moonlight Sonata? Use Opus numbers or organizational systems (WoO, K. numbers, etc.), or you could even put a parenthetical note for the arranger, book, and so forth, or editions.
The next step would be to create a form to fill out for each database, and reports. These should automatically update in the software you use, so that as soon as you fill out a form, the information is added.
Ideas for Reports would include:
Music by Composer (and make sure composer names are entered consistently with first and last names)
Music by difficulty level
Music by key signature
Pieces with accompaniment
Music by instrumentation
As a teacher, this is super useful. I can filter my results or pull a report for a student at a certain level, in a certain key signature and by a specific genre without having to leaf through hundreds of my books and materials.
I hope this post gives you excellent ideas on how to organize your library, studio, office, or classroom. I know it seriously helps me. Yes, it takes some time setting up and getting through entering everything you own ... but in the end, you have something like this to look forward to:
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I was asked just this week by a long time student of mine how he should be practicing. I'll have to be honest and say this floored me a little. "Wow," I said. "I'm so glad you asked me this." Keep in mind that my job as a teacher isn't just to teach you the concepts and material, it is also my job to impart the know-how and tools of practice.
So, without much further ado, here are 17 Hits to get the most out of your practice.
1. Warm Up - Pick an etude, play an easy song, get the blood moving in your fingers to have them ready and at their tiptop condition for practice.
2. Do your scales. Pay close attention in particular to ones that are the key of your pieces to practice. Remind your brain and your body that you need quick access to this knowledge. Patterns are crucial for any musician and scales are excellent pattern practice.
3. Play some Hanon. (See above) Transpose if necessary or applicable.
4. Take a study break. Look over your material carefully. Actually READ your music. You can even sit comfortably in a chair or on a couch for this portion of practice. Sing the song in your head as you read through it. Note all the highlights you need to remember (dynamics, articulations, tempos, etc.)
5. Use the 50% rule at least once per piece. Don't know the 50% rule? That means practice at exactly 50% of the speed of the piece you are working on. If you just have "Allegro", then select the slowest pace of 60 BPM.
6. Become friends with a metronome, and use it at least once per piece (all the way through). You may adjust as necessary by 2-3 or even 5 ticks, but make an entire practice through with it. Your timing and rhythm will improve, as well as your attention to speed.
7. Work in chunks. Take small sections of 2-4 measures at a time, and perfect them before stringing them all together. Be methodical about this.
8. Refrain from the desire to "fix mistakes" constantly. Ignoring mistakes is sometimes just as important as fixing them. You'll never make it through a piece if you constantly stop and start. Performances demand that time continues on, so allow yourself some grace. Then, return to chunking and the 50% rule to fix your mistakes.
9. Keep a pencil and highlighter handy. You may need notes, you may need instructions, or you might just need encouragement. Either way, a pencil and highlighter is a must if you want to succeed in practice.
10. Take brain breaks. Rest your thoughts and let loose a little by throwing in a fun song, playing something enjoyable, or just fiddling around on the keys. Your focus and intensity might suffer if you don't give yourself the space to relax a little.
11. Never quit practicing until you have worked on each assignment with 3 full run-throughs. This ensures you made mistakes, worked them through, and then attempted to perform to the best of your ability.
12. Practice in a variety of environments. Loud or quiet, we musicians put up with a lot. Plus, other people still have lives. If someone is making dinner and is whipping up a racket, put your practice skills to the test! If you have the chance to play on another instrument that isn't yours, try it out! If you have company, or the house is still asleep, give the keys a whirl. We build up our concentration and focus this way as we tolerate a lot of conditions we cannot control as musicians.
13. Sightread a piece of music. It can be new, it can be old, it just cannot be anything you're working on (or just worked on). This puts all of your theory skills to the test.
14. Try a video recording of yourself that you can delete later. Set it up so you can see your hands and hear the music, and then LISTEN CAREFULLY to the playback. This will give you a ton of information about yourself that you might not otherwise have known. Maybe you're sitting wrong, or maybe you missed all the F#s.
15. Practice your music backwards! Start with the last measure. Then the last 2. Then the last 3, etc. This gives your brain a bit of a workout and allows you to hear the music in a different way. It may even highlight important things you have overlooked.
16. Be positive with yourself, and stay calm. The worst thing to do is become frustrated with something you struggle on. Tell yourself that you can do better next time, and don't give up!
17. Try out an audience. Mom, dad, neighbor, babysitter, whomever! Wherever! Ask them for their positive feedback, and ask them if there's 1 thing they think you could work on. They might see and hear things that you don't, so use these to motivate yourself to success!
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Learning music is a commitment. It can be a serious one, or a casual one - but it's still a commitment. We all have lives, and let's be honest about it: Some days are better than other days. As adults, we have jobs, children, grandchildren, chores, work, errands, appointments ... and an endless amount of capability to organize it all. So can we fit in learning piano?
If you're deciding whether or not you can learn piano, you must set some sort of goal or at least have one in mind. Many of my adult students come to me and say they always wanted to learn so they had a hobby, or a pastime. This is a great motivator to learn! I have others that have come to me and said that they want to accomplish a specific piece of music. Also a great reason to learn. Rarely have I had an adult come to me and say they'd love to play Chopin level 8 pieces, or that they want to be a pianist. But this can also be an excellent driving force. I'm going to be brutally honest about all three of these types of adult beginners (or returners) for a moment, and I hope I don't hurt your feelings.
The first adult I mentioned is the most successful adult student. The second is the least successful adult student. The last student is so rare, that I've had only 1 adult in my 10+ years of teaching have this goal - and they fell off the face of the planet when a family crisis occurred.
There are a plethora of reasons for the success of the first student, and why I've retained several of these for years. These adults always come to me with an awareness of self and ability. They are timid, they are receptive, and they are candid. They knew that there would be times when it would be difficult to practice, yet they persevered through lessons that may have felt overwhelming or unsuccessful. They understood that not every lesson would be exciting and fun, and that there is a substantial amount of sweat and tears involved in the learning process.
That leaves the other two types of students. The second type of student tends to fail because they don't live in reality. Most educators are unwilling to teach you something they know you don't want to understand. That said, learning a intermediate piece of music that isn't Mary Had a Little Lamb can involve more than 50 musical concepts. Sure, you can learn by rote ... but are you really learning music? No. Are you really learning the song? No. There's more to music than just the right notes and the right lengths of the notes. People with a piece goal in mind want to play NOW, and then never come back for lessons. In truth, this is distracting and leads to disinterest on not only behalf of the student, but also the teacher.
The final student who wants to be a great musician is genuinely rare at an adult's age, that there isn't much to say really. As an educator, I'd equate it to a drastic change in careers: A mechanic suddenly becoming a financial consultant. It's a dream, and dream chasers can be valuable students and can learn very well. But, when obstacles block their path, they can end up more reluctant to change their ways and will easily settle for less.
All types of adults and goals can be successful, but in my experience, the adult that knows the level of dedication involved is the one best prepared for success in lessons. They can truly learn piano. Good or bad, they have the thick skin required and the resolve.
Now let's get to how to overcome your challenges being an adult.
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You should write in your music more than you believe you should. I hearken back to my collegiate days with this belief. I had professors in Philosophy, English and History strongly advocating using pen in your books for many reasons. As a musician, you need more than just the odd definition here and there. You need LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION! Connecting important ideas and concepts in music is difficult as there are so many, so be highlighter friendly.
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Dynamics are essentially musical volume. Dynamics help to create a few important musical structures: mood, scenery, shading, and character.
Now that we've covered the important expression dynamics encompasses, what do those symbols ACTUALLY MEAN?
ppp - Pianississimo