Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Three Ways to Play Piano

My learning of piano was revolutionized by the tri-fold learning method of Dave Clark in Brandon, Florida.  For 30 years, he has been using the method of teaching by Notes, Chord Symbols, and Ear with great success.  I have continued in his foot steps teaching this approach.  So, what makes it work?

First, the three ways bring a great variety of music to the musician’s fingertips.  Some music is only available completely notated or in lead sheet form.  Some music is not written down!  No matter which camp it’s in, you can play it with one (or maybe all?)of  the three ways. 

Second, the three ways give to the musician incredible versatility.  The above reason is one, the ability to add to the music according to taste is another.  The list goes on.

Third, the three ways reinforce and enhance each other.  Simple as that!  You can see this in a myriad of ways.  To name one, when you know chords well, you will quickly spot them in notated music, seeing recurring patterns, and read much, MUCH faster.

Fourth, when you have three ways to play, each tapping into different neurological, motor, and aural functions, each having their access to certain genres, one  of the ways is bound to stick with you!  Mr. Clark has noticed this from keeping in touch with his students over the years.

By the way, the musician who plays tuba is just as likely to prophet by learning all three ways.  Granted, the tuba, like most instruments, does not in obvious ways give the ability for playing harmony which is needed for the chord symbol approach. Yet if a tuba player learned a bit of the chord symbol style on the piano, it would enhance his reading and by ear skills. 

Mr. Clark wrote Piano Companion, a book which guides the student to advanced playing in all three ways.  I use it with intermediate to advanced and older students.

Because this is so basic and special to my teaching method, and kind of revolutionary in the piano pedagogy community, I’m sure I will write on it more in the future.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Events for this week!

A little late on this...

University of Tampa Studio
Betty Chester emailed this to her students/colleagues. She is such a source of inspiration and information! :)
Piano Music Lovers,

This week a Summer Piano Camp is being held at the University of Tampa.  The evenng performances by the faculty are free and open to the public (free parking too).  I hope that you get to go to at least one:

Sunday, July 24th, 7:30 p.m.  Recital by Grigorios Zamparas [We've seen him in town before!]- Grand Salon,  Plant Hall

Tuesday, July 26th, 7:30 p.m.  Recital by   Duncan Macillan - Music Room, Plant Hall

Thursday, July 28th,  7:30 p.m.  Recital by Leonidas Lipovetsky - Fletcher Lounge 2nd Floor

Saturday, July 30th, 1:00 and 3:00 - Grand Finale Concerts of Student Performers (aged 12 - 18)  - Grand Salon, Plant Hall

Adult Piano Students are also invited to attend the free  Master Classes this Monday through Friday at 4:40 in the Grand Salon in Plant Hall. 

Thank you, Mrs. Chester!  I would call UT to check for the free Master Classes.  Check out more here:


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Go Bug Dad For Anything - Mnemonic Devices

I start teaching staff notation very early.  Even with 5 year olds, it will come in the first lesson -usually.  By the second or third lesson, they are chanting "All Cows Eat Grass."   Here is the chart I teach them, with the exception of the Good Burritos - I teach "Go Bug Dad For Anything," just for laughs:

New tips I learned:

Rhyming and Reading Music

"Notice that if you say it this way, "FACE is for the space" it rhymes.
"Every Good Boy Does Fine is for the lines," rhymes as well.
This will help with the hardest part for students, which is keeping the memory tools for the lines and spaces straighted out in your head. Also keep in mind that there are 4 spaces on each staff and 5 lines. So that helps narrow down the options."   -

 For intermediate students: Once I asked a friend, "How do you remember the keys with sharps and flats?" For the order of sharps, she reminded me of the mnemonic I learned so long ago it was like stumbling upon the old train set in the attic: 

Fat Cat Go Down Allies Eating Bird.

 But she lamented not having a mnemonic for the flats.  Now I know why.  On this music theory site, I just learned that the order of flats is the same sequence but backwards. Nice!


P.S.  I always tell students that Go Bug Dad For Anything is not good advice.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

From Tedious Combing the Internet to Ebullient

Have you ever gone on those wild goose chases and in the adventure find something worthwhile?
Well that was how I one day came upon a defining moment in my musical career.
I discovered a way to write music thru the computer online for free!!¸.·´*  Happy Unbirthday!  And of course I wondered why I hadn't been told about it after 3 years in a music college.  I'm sure there are more programs  available as well for free.  I recently heard of a sample version of Sibelius. 

Here it is: :

How I used this site:
 I've frequently wanted to change the key of a piece to accommodate a singer.  This site lets me do that. Of course on the flip side I had to learn how to use the program a little.  But if you have 20 minutes to just hit random keys (on the computer keyboard... not hitting piano keys!), you too can figure it out and use it for some time saving and organizing.

A sample of my transposed work ~ Press play!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Another stellar performance by the Plant City Community Choir!!  The invitation read :

Plant City Community Choir will partner with East Hillsborough Community Band
to present a stirring patriotic concert...
theme will be the support of our troops overseas.
Each person attending is asked to bring a small item that can be mailed to our troops as they protect and serve our great USA.

Although the big band music was amazing, with all it's Sousian grandeur, it was the a capella singing of Rene' Claussen's Set Me As a Seal that resonated with my heart... Perhaps because of the story that the PCCC choir director, Joe Mendolia, told before hand, which he learned from Claussen in a question and answer session during a choral workshop at USF.  Joe asked him what piece he's written that he would never changed - that he is perfectly satisfied with.  He named Set Me As A Seal.  He was grieving the stillbirth of his fifth child due to an amniocentesis.  While his wife lay in the hospital recovering next to the nursary ward, he composed it in 45 minutes.
 He writes himself, "Some time ago my wife suffered 5 consecutive miscarriages. I wrote Set Me As A Seal the next evening. I am struck by the phrase "for love is strong as death", because when I wrote it my actual feeling was "for love is stronger than death"; abiding, all-encompassing love absorbs even the pain of death. If the piece is about anything, it is about the simple but powerful conviction of permanent love that seeks to overflow the boundary between life and death. I can't imagine a choir singing it without open hearts." 
How great is the music that flows from deep comfort.