• Event Calender

    << Dec 2017 >>
    SMTWTFS
    26 27 28 29 30 1 2
    3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    10 11 12 13 14 15 16
    17 18 19 20 21 22 23
    24 25 26 27 28 29 30
    31 1 2 3 4 5 6
  • Future Stars Today

    Future Stars Today

    2017 Simon Fiset Competition

    2nd — Jonathan Staley; 3rd — Shichu “David” Liu

    2017 NW Chopin Festival

    Gold — Shichu “David” Liu; Silver — Robert Yee

    2016 Outstanding Artist

    1st — Robert Yan; 2nd — Jonathan Staley; 3rd — Shichu (David) Liu

    2016 Crescendo Int’l

    1st — Nile Camai, Nicholas Chin, Travis Lee, Angela Lin, Shichu (David) Liu, Caroline Oei, Catherine Oei, Ivan Penev, Annika Renganathan, Rebecca Sun

    2016 American Protégé

    1st — Arthur Yan; Robert Yan
  • Practice Tips—No. 3: Fragments and Fingering

    Naturally, practicing techniques and practicing goals are different depending on the level of the repertoire the student is playing. For a beginner, the goal is to reinforce the correct (firm, yet relaxed) technique, thus the repetition of certain arm, wrist, and hand movements need to be done on a daily basis, or even many times a day. As soon as the student can play a short piece, practicing involves repetition of the entire piece (often just four measures long) at a slow enough speed that the notes, technique, and sound are right. It is necessary to stress the idea of the appropriate speed―most students want to play as fast as possible, often inspired by a teacher’s demonstration. That is natural. However, in order to develop a good sense of pulse, it is crucial to choose such a speed of the piece where the student can keep the same pulse throughout.

    For those pupils who already have a piece to learn that is at least eight measures long or longer, realize that there are always some spots in the piece that are more difficult than the bulk of the entirety with which the student is struggling (slowing down or playing a bunch of incorrect notes). It is like a broken part in the car―we should fix what is broken, and practice the small trouble spots. Usually we don’t buy entire new car if just one part needs to be fixed, do we? We recommend circling the “trouble” spot and practicing those places even before playing through the entire piece, and trying to fix that “broken” part first. In a longer piece of music, such as a sonata, there might be several difficult spots that should be taken out of the context and worked on in every possible way that the student knows each day, and many more times than the rest of the piece. One may even have a “start up collection” of those trouble spots―and practice them from a purely technical point of view at the beginning of practice. How to practice and how many times to repeat is up to the teacher’s recommendation.

    As tiring as it can be, often it does take 10-15 reps a day or more through a difficult spot to smooth it over. If one really takes a good look into a trouble spot―one can even in the most complex pieces of advanced repertoire limit the problem to just such a simple issue as the use of incorrect fingering, or just a few note gestures. Piano students often neglect the fingering suggestions of the teacher (or the editors of the book) who, week after week, have to circle the same fingering with various colored pencils to highlight the problem. Working on fingering seems to be such a big task for a lot of pupils, but yet, without fixing that one problem there can’t be any progress forward. Remember―our fingers were NOT created equal, and often it will happen that with incorrect fingering and even 100 hours of practice, one will not achieve improvement, and with the use of correct and smart fingering, one may not have to practice much at all! So, paying attention to the teacher’s fingering remarks is extremely crucial.

    A last word about the repetition of small spots or sections. Often, even by following the teacher’s suggestions and with good fingering, some spots will seem not to improve. This, again, boils down to speed. If something goes wrong during repetition more than three times, then one must change something. Slow it down. Do fewer notes. After successfully repeating those places slower, usually a student can quickly plug it back into the larger passage and gradually bring it back to speed. Without this important change in strategy, one is simply repeating the wrong way.

    While the trouble spot is finally starting to sound fluid and is played with ease, the students should start incorporating it into the larger sections and phrases and move on to new tasks, such as phrasing, voicing, memorization, and higher level of artistic interpretation.

    It is worth reinforcing the crucial importance of fingering in scales and technical exercises. Often even parents seem to be slightly annoyed with our persistence to reinforce the correct fingering―well, the scale and arpeggio are played correctly not only when the correct notes are played, but only when they are played with absolutely correct fingering, in steady beat, flowingly, without sudden bumps and erratic changes of speed. Later, when students advance to Beethoven’s Sonatas―the students will recognize scale-like patterns within the text and those passages should be then played right away with fluidity due to years of working on scales and arpeggios, and the fingering should basically become automatic at that moment. Correct fingering allows us to play with fluidity and ease. Remember, there are only 24 scales and arpeggios, but every piece of music uses them!

    What many should remember is that practicing is work, and work is often monotonous. Repeating and concentrating on short fragments, even just a few notes, passages to be played with just one hand, day by day for weeks… that is what it takes to one day being able to “fly” and enjoy the beauty of the work. The latter is not possible without the former. This is why perhaps the most important talent that we need to have as performers is the talent for diligent work. Also, as this is an acquired skill, this ability is perhaps the most important quality that students can apply to their future, regardless of what career path they choose as adults.