How Much Practice is Enough? Part 2
Hi everyone and welcome to another information packed newsletter!
Last month, in Part 1 of How Much Practice is Enough?, I attempted to calculate, in real numerical terms, the amount of practice required to get through a certain AMEB exam. In this follow up article, I will explore some of the other issues surrounding exam preparation.
Boredom would have to be the no.1 reason for good exam preparation being thwarted. There is nothing worse than having the same four pieces to practise all year round, with only miniscule improvements each week, if any at all.
Exam repertoire is most definitely getting harder. Every teacher I speak to agrees with this; every three years or so the AMEB brings out a new series and – sure enough – the pieces are more difficult than the previous series. So it's not surprising that the repertoire takes longer to learn, and that students can get bogged down perfecting one piece over a long period of time.
So what's the solution? More repertoire. But obviously not more of the same super-high-standard repertoire... just some simpler pieces, say 3 or 4 grades lower, which can be learned in a couple of weeks (max!) and which provide variety and a sense of instant gratification (which we all know this generation thrives on J). My esteemed co-author and dear friend Abe Cytrynowski calls these shorter pieces 'rocket' pieces... they must be learned and mastered at rocket speed!
Rocket pieces are also a terrific way to keep motivation high during the holidays. See how many pieces you can surprise your teacher with in the first lesson back!
Piano for Leisure
The Piano for Leisure (PFL) syllabus is fantastic for those who either can't put in as much time or who are somehow not quite efficient enough with the time they do put in (it would be fair to say that the 1500-hour total discussed in Part 1 applies mostly to the Piano syllabus rather than the Piano for Leisure syllabus).
The main differences in the PFL syllabus are that there is MUCH less technical work to do, and only three pieces to learn instead of five or six. But beware... click here to read the rest of this article.
Free Aural CDs
The Grade 4 and Grade 5 Musicianship Aural CDs are now available as a free download from the BlitzBooks website.
Each CD contains tutorials on the various aural concepts tested in the exams, as well as sample aural tests that resemble closely the format of the AMEB aural exam.
Answers to the tutorials can be downloaded from the website. The answers to the aural tests are contained in the Grades 4 and 5 Musicianship Answer Books, of which Grade 4 is available for free download, and Grade 5 can be purchased in any print music store.
Choose the 'Aural' category from the Downloads page.
Fifty Pieces in a Year: The Repertoire Conveyer Belt
This term I started the 50-piece challenge with my private students. That's right, let's see who can learn fifty pieces in one year!
At first all of their eyes popped out of their heads. Fifty pieces? In a year? Most of them couldn't fathom learning fifty pieces in a lifetime, let alone 12 months!
So the first real challenge here was to calm everybody down and explain how it could be done. The idea was to churn through lots and lots of repertoire, but it didn't all have to be difficult repertoire!
I set each student a minimum standard of repertoire they could learn. For example, a student working towards a 5th grade exam would learn at least 5 or 6 pieces over the year at 5th grade level – but the other 44 pieces could be anything from 1st grade onwards, from a variety of different repertoire books. So, a few of their pieces are 'long term' projects (i.e. the exam pieces, at their grade level), and the rest are 'rocket' pieces, a term coined by my friend and colleague Abe Cytrynowski – pieces learned at the speed of a rocket!
I explained that in order to get through the 50 pieces, they would need to present at least one new piece each week, and in some weeks two new pieces. Perhaps the new pieces wouldn't be completely learned and perfected in one week, but that's ok... it would be like a conveyer belt of repertoire, in which new pieces keep coming on at the beginning, and once they're learned they drop off the end (except for the long-term exam repertoire, which would stay on the conveyer belt for a long time!).
All of my students now have their names on a chart on the wall, with columns 1-50 next to their names. They get a dot for each new piece they start, and the dot is then transformed into a tick (i.e. it's done) when the piece is finished.
The most intriguing thing about the 50-piece challenge chart is the element of competition it has inspired... click here to read the rest of this article.
To your music education,
PS: Here's a few snaps from our recent workshops. View more in our Facebook album.
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Backstroke and Beethoven
One of my recent blog posts was published in Sydney's Child magazine. The article covers my thoughts how to teach children to play piano. Check out the article here.
Perfecting Piano Posture
My dear friend Michelle Madder (co-author of the Blitz Sight Reading books and Director of Australian Music Schools) has an excellent article on Perfecting Piano Posture.
In the post she goes through the need to 'practice' good posture and provides detailed guidelines on how to position your back, feet, arms & shoulders, wrists and even your fingers. Plus a few mistakes to avoid. Highly recommended. Click here to read it.
Blitz 10th Birthday - Hurry Last Days!
If you go into your local print music store this month, you may be greeted with a fabulous Blitz display and may be given freebies with your BlitzBooks purchase! You can also enter online to win a $100 voucher to spend in your favourite store.
See website for participating stores.
Take a look at some of the current store displays:
From the BlitzBitz Blog
Did you see this recent article?
The Essential Skills of Sight Reading and Aural
Sight reading and aural skills are essential components of being a good musician. It is so important to develop these skills, and not to concentrate solely on performance skills. Good sight reading and good aural gives you access to any music, any time, for life.
BlitzBooks is the series by Samantha Coates that has revolutionised music theory teaching. Students are no longer bored with their theory books! Since January 2001, music students have been able to ENJOY their theory education with fun, user-friendly texts. The conversational, easy-to-use format has made BlitzBooks incredibly popular with students as well as making teachers' lives easier.
The BlitzBooks series covers the AMEB syllabus for Grades 1 to 5 in both Theory and Musicianship as well as offering fantastic publications in the areas of beginner music theory, sight reading (piano) and general knowledge (any instrument).
Each Theory/Musicianship workbook is complemented by a comprehensive Teacher Guide and separate Answer Book, a feature no other theory series offers. There are many additional music resources on the BlitzBooks website, as well as constant updates relating to revisions and changes to the AMEB syllabus.
BlitzBooks remains on the cutting edge of music theory education, making this series the number one choice for students and teachers in Australia and overseas.
The BlitzBooks titles are available from all good print music retailers.
You can learn more about BlitzBooks at Blitzbooks.com.au.
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