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ALL LESSONS WILL RESUME APRIL 13, WITH VIRTUAL-PLATFORM-ONLY. NO RECITAL MARCH 28, 2020.
Something for fun: look up your pieces you are currently working on, or have done in the past. YouTube is a good source. Be aware that not all postings there are good examples. Use discretion and evaluate them based on what you know about music, performance, and sound.
If there is something you admire about the clip, see if you can emulate it with your own rendition. With schools being closed, you have extra time to really progress through practicing.
Practice: what does this mean exactly?
Students often ask "how much" they should practice. I am sure they mean "how many minutes"?
You may ask: What's the difference?
Some students may take hours to master a particular piece. Some students make find that they master the same piece in 30 minutes. It's not the time overall, it's HOW the time is spent. AND the students practice habits up to that point.
Simply playing through a piece, whilst ignoring incorrect pitches, rhythms, or chords, while perhaps satisfying: "I played my piece!", this method of "practice" falls short. Every time that problem spot is played incorrectly, that sequence is further ingrained in the brain. Overcoming the mistake becomes more difficult because of this. In effect, students have to re-learn that part. Or, they become frustrated and quit.
How much more effective, rather than only playing the piece, is taking those problem areas and isolating them. Three things should be done:
1) STOP playing! Back up a few notes, and figure out the correct pitch, rhythm, fingering.
2) SLOW it down. Play just that sequence of notes, a part of a measure only in most cases.
3) REPEAT correctly!
In my personal practice, I mark (in pencil) the areas that need work. I make sure to write in fingerings so that I am training muscle memory. I isolate and slowly play through the part, first right then left hand (if we're talking about piano) Then, I gradually add the few preceding notes/measures, and the following notes/measures, in order to put it all in context.
This process can take several minutes. For less experienced students, this process becomes boring. Students do not want to practice this way! I acknowledge this. And for this reason, I try to keep most the pieces which students are working on within their current ability. Most method books are graded well for this process.* In order to grow, I emphasize technical studies: scales, finger patterns, cadences. These can then transfer to new pieces.
Playing through pieces is indeed satisfying. I recommend that students spend part of their practice session playing pieces which have already been mastered. Keeping skills which have been learned is very important for the layering of proficiency. The building blocks of music mastery is a slow and steady type of endeavor.
Therefore, in order to progress; isolated, slower repetition with repertoire selections should take about 1/3 of the practice session. Another 1/3 should be spent on technique exercises. Uniformity of pulse and accuracy are the goals of this portion. The final 1/3 of the time (no matter how many total minutes we are talking about) should be spent enjoying pieces already learned in previous lessons.
I hope that this article has been helpful. The TED talk linked below explains the science behind practice.
*Trying to explain to a student (or their parents!) why Jonny can't study Fur Elise, or Moonlight Sonata yet is a subject for another post.
Can I get a napkin please? Food Court Musical. If you've not seen this early flash mob from 2008. Where have you been? Enjoy!
If you're like me, exploring You Tube can be a fun way to discover musicians and regular, everyday people interacting in surprising ways. A trend of late is a "flash mob", defined as "a large public gathering at which people perform an unusual or seemingly random act and then disperse, typically organized by means of the Internet or social media."
Sometimes, it's choral groups performing selections from musicals, or holiday music. Sometimes, like the clip I've selected to share, it's Symphony Orchestras. The players trickle in as their parts are layered in the piece. A crowd grows, enjoying the surprising addition to their day, and then everyone, amazed and blessed, leaves with a new bounce to their step.
As anyone who meets me soon discovers, I am a huge proponent of enjoying music. As I was relating to a parent this morning, the purpose of studying, playing and sharing music is to have fun! No one remembers missed notes, lapses in timing, or singing off key. Everyone remembers the spirit in which music is presented. Always with enthusiasm and love, I say!
Here is a clip of a high school choir who created a fun choreography to their William Tell Overture (The Lone Ranger Theme) for their audience. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Do you struggle with playing your instrument? Everyone has challenges. I struggle on piano with polyphonic pieces, since I never really studied Bach Inventions early on, and since I can successfully play so many other things, I just don't really work on inventions now. Extended left hand independence is one challenge for piano. With students, I try to help them avoid this same issue by assigning various articulation and dynamics with familiar scalar passages.
On clarinet, my challenge is keeping my altissimo (extreme upper) register proficient. Now that I think of it, this is also a vocal challenge for me. Unless I actively warm up and work in these areas, my abilities to sound nice (or to "sound" at all!) suffer.
With guitar, my challenge is just taking time to play. I don't do this enough if I don't have students to motivate me to keep it up.
What are your challenges?
How do you feel when you have to work hard at something?
If you quit when things get tough, how will your life be different than if you persevered?
Does learning an instrument help you learn to persevere?
It can be frustrating, to the point of wanting to quit, when things take work to learn. Sometimes, there are young musicians who are so much better than I will ever be. When I hear others play who are so much better than I, sometimes I am inspired. But sometimes I am discouraged. I think: I could never get that good!
And then, someone comes along that inspires me so much, I just have to share. German French Horn player, Felix Klieser, is one such person. Perseverance and attitude have so much to do with his success as a professional musician. Watch the video to see how he has taken his childhood desire to play and has overcome his challenges.
Music Recital: Expressions of Music
Students of Karen Yonkers
Saturday, December 14, 2019
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
Expressions of Music includes ways that makes us special and unique. Just by virtue of being human and living in community provides platforms for expression. Composers write music to express their feelings and thoughts in an artistic way. Sometimes they write for a certain occasion or as a tribute to a certain person. Performers present music using artistic expression. Music is also tied to our own traditions and cultural influences. Today, we will hear from a variety of these traditions and influences.
My definition of music: vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce melodic and harmonic beauty of form.
Influences for Expression
Good King Wenceslas: heard during Christmas time, the poem and traditional music actually stem from St. Stephen’s Day (December 26) and tell of generosity of the King and his encouraging words to his page (helper) while they trudge through a snow storm.
Away in a Manger: This familiar Carol tells the story of Baby Jesus, born in the stall because there was no room in the inn.
Dreidel Song: This tune is a traditional Hanukkah song. The Jewish spinning toy game is popular during this winter holiday.
The First Noel. The word Noel is an early English synonym of Christmas. The lyrics reflect the birth of Jesus, the star, the angels and the shepherds. Pere Noel is Father Christmas in France.
The Christmas tree is found in many homes around the world. People of many backgrounds enjoy this festive greenery (even artificial greenery) during the winter holiday. Germany is credited with the origin of this tradition.
A family holiday tradition in American and Europe includes the story of the Nutcracker, a ballet written by Tchaikovsky in 1892.
British homes are decorated with Holly and Ivy during the Christmas season.
The Hanukkah Song recounts Jewish traditions of candles, dreidel, latkes and dancing.
Silent Night, written in Austria 1819 to be accompanied by guitar, as the story goes, the organ wasn’t working for the Christmas Eve service.
Another holiday at this time of year is Kwanzaa: Honoring African American values, gift-giving and lighting lights.
Feliz Navidad, by Jose Feliciano, reflects the spirit of Spanish speaking wishes for a happy christmas and prosperous new year.
Mele Kalikimaka is the Hawaiian Christmas greeting.
Robert Frost poem about a snowy night are expressed in music here by Vera Kistler
Charlie Brown Christmas is another family holiday tradition. Linus and Lucy song
Bells! Jingle Bells, Carol of the Bells, Sleigh Bells! Ringing bells express happiness.
Here in Grand Rapids, Tran Siberian Orchestra is a much-anticipated part of the Winter Season. Wizards in Winter
Thank you for coming to our support music students. Assistance in cleaning up appreciated today. Next week, we begin winter break. Lessons will resume the week of January 6th. Session Three recital, entitled “Ensembles in Music” will be held Saturday, February 15. An essential aspect of music education, performing with others, will be developed.
For lessons, event music or questions:
Karen Yonkers (616) 648-3011
Karen Yonkers Music