Composing: Goodies for Everyone!

Mini Mozarts in the Making - circa 2012

What will my four year old’s composition look like? How many measures is a Moonbeams 3 supposed to write? Do we need to add the left hand to my Sunbeams 2’s song? I need more staff paper! The answers to your burning questions and more are now provided. I have some wonderful resources on composing for you all to access.

Take advantage of this, because the deadline is Wednesday Feb. 29th.
More questions? Call, email or see me before class. Sometimes I just have to see what you’re working on to offer help.

Happy Composing,

News, Resources, Uncategorized

Hyped for Skype?

Hi everyone,

Winter continues to reign supreme! With the latest storm blowing in a week apart from the last (why does it always fall on music lesson days?) I thought I’d offer something for those who travel a little further to class: how about a virtual class?

If this is what you're bound to see on your way to class, then Skype me!

As you know, my trusty laptop is always sitting in class anyway, so why not Skype in if you can’t make it? You could also do this form the couch if you’re feeling sick and can’t come.

Find me on Skype; my name is maifriz. I’ll have it on in class from now on.

Stay warm!

Reflections, Resources, Uncategorized

Acoustic piano vs. Digital vs. Keyboard

I have had a request to share some of this information in a post, so here it goes…

The “Bare minimum” for lessons with me is a touch sensitive keyboard with at least 62 keys. A standard keyboard/piano is 88 keys. Touch sensitive means that you can press softly on a key to produce a quiet sounds, and harder to produce a loud sound (and many shades in between).

There are several considerations and realistically I would have to say that budget is the defining and deciding factor. What are you willing and able to spend? Will that be worth the life of the instrument – how long will it be used and by whom? Will all or one child/ren take lessons? Do you like to play sometimes?

On a used keyboard, you can expect to spend anywhere from $60- 200. But it is important to make sure that it has the minimum requirements. You can always email me to ask, but to be sure, see the keyboard in person before you buy.

For a used piano it’s buyer beware! The range here is anywhere from FREE to $5,000 (or more depending on the brand). Always remember there is a reason that the person is getting rid of the piano. Are they moving, want more space, don’t have children living at home who play anymore?  The same thing applies to pricing: is it overpriced because there is an emotional attachment to it?

Don’t forget the care and maintenance of the piano. It will need tuning (at least twice a year) and the temperature that it sits in should be monitored. Too much humidity will cause the wood to absorb moisture, swell up, and cause the tuning to become sharp. Too much dryness can crack the wood and cause a vibrating bzzzzzzz effect. Here are some tips for keeping a piano in tune through it’s environment.

The most important thing to do when buying used is to see, play, touch and hear a piano. You don’t buy a car without a test drive, so this is the same. In fact, the safest thing to do is have a technician inspect it (look up piano tuner/technicians in the phone book and ask if they have this service). It’s very easy to fall in love with an beautiful antique, but remember that it’s function is vital to your child’s learning. It will be mighty annoying for your child to press a defunct middle C each time they play! (I am speaking from experience– BEFORE my parents had our original piano professionally restored). My upright piano on the main level is simply a piece of furniture for my daughter to discover. If I want the best tuning, I’ll go downstairs and play a digital…. it can’t fail!

So, let’s discuss digital pianos. I think it is a practical compromise. Many people will argue that they can NEVER recreate the warmth of an acoustic sound, but those people have underestimated new technology. I’d have to say the sound is definitely getting closer. Roland digital pianos, for example, record the sound from a concert piano- like a Steinway, in a concert hall, played by a professional musician – painstakingly note by note. See this video  (go to 1:35′ to see what how they’ve taken sampling to a new level).

Furthermore, if you play a high quality one, you’ll feel the weight of the keys similarly to a real piano. Some prefer the touch of ivory under their fingers, but that material has been out of use in piano keys since about the 50’s.

Let me remind you that some teachers will REQUIRE the use of an acoustic piano for study with them. This usually applies to those studying at higher, performance levels. If only we could all look into the future and see what our little ones will be doing when they’re 16 year old Mozarts… Another decision for you to make!

What do you use at home? How did you come by the instrument? Any tips or suggestions for your fellow music parents? Please comment below.

Practice Tips, Resources, Uncategorized

Your practice Space

Okay folks, now you have your first assignment– a bonus one, yes, I know- but even if the page isn’t fully checked off come the first week of September, you really ought to get back to the bench (or book) and start practicing. Athletes don’t run the big race without warmups and test runs.

Getting started early...

I will use this blog PLENTY to describe practice tips, but just as important as that is the space you’ll be working in. So what should your practice space include?

  • Pencil – write on the score, write in your notebook/diary, write down questions for your teacher etc….
  • Notebook– This can be used in a variety of ways. A lesson agenda details what you will do in between each lesson (one week). What will you do TODAY? How will you know when that’s ready? What do I need to do to be ready for next class? You can also write down questions for me. Another section could be for breakthroughs and can ready as diary entries: “Today I NAILED the staccatos in Sur Le Pont” or “I can read/play the RH of Bow Wow Wow without starting and stopping.”
  • Homework Sheet- These are your practice instructions. But don’t stop there. Put them into your own words, or scribble your own notes onto this sheet. Always keep track of your daily practice on the keyboard/days of the week (or chart for Moonbeams 3).
  • Coloured Highlighters– For information at a glance. Orange for dynamics, blue for phrasing, yellow for note reading accuracy- it’s up to you!
  • Photocopies- Best to colour and write all over a copy– not your original score. This is not copyright infringement, it’s a study tool. You aren’t distributing these copies or performing them in public.
  • Playing Cards/Dice- name 2-Ace (or the suits) for scales, practice elements (adding dynamics, fixing the phrases, speeding up tempo etc..), bar numbers- just about anything! This can really shake up a BORING practice routine.
  • Recording/Listening equipment- Record yourself or listen to a performance of the song you are working on. Review your previous recordings and track your improvements or find your weak spots. I can record you in studio, just ask.
  • Family Members- Well, not always. Although sometimes it’s good to perform for a test audience.

Like what you see in this post? I am very much “into” this book, Practiceopedia, right now. There are so many ideas for music study, I’ll never get to them all. Oh, and you’re welcome to borrow, but chances are, you’ll end up wanting your own copy 🙂


Music Games

Hello! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.

I have recently come across a “had to share” website of music games called Tonic Tutor. Click on “Play a Game” to get started. If I get enough feedback, I may subscribe to it so more students can enjoy. It allows me to set up specific games for each week. I figure the level of these games are well suited to Sunbeams 3 and Moonbeams 3.

For the younger MYC students, try various games from this site, or the games on Classics For Kids. For rhythm clap back, try and click on “exercises.” There’s also a feature for Moobeams 3 to try interval ear tests.

Are there any other games out there that parents would like to share?