Exercise and practice have lots in common!

Michelle

Reading the paper last weekend I saw this and thought how much it has in common with practising the piano.

It’s not always going to be fun, and the sooner we realise this, the more we will probably do!

 

 

 

Technique really works!

Today when Piano Girl was practising she came racing out to see me and said “Mummy, this bit from Circle Dance is in Dance of the Jester, too”

Circle Dance

She checked each piece and discovered the composers were different.

Dance of the Court Jester

She was right, of course.

The first piece, Circle Dance is the technique exercise and then those techniques are applied in the piece, Dance of the Court Jester.

Very clever!

Practice break through!

So excited, we had a practice break through today!

Piano Girl was looking through a couple of books that I had laying around on the piano and she realized that she could play some of the pieces.

Clowns from Getting to Preliminary New Mix

Clowns

Clowns

And here she is (with her little sister playing the low Cs) in Wild Ride, also from Getting to Preliminary New Mix.

Wild Ride

 

It was such a motivating moment for her!

It was as though all of a sudden the world had opened up to her, because she could understand how to read the music.

Exciting times!

5

No one likes practising

No child likes practising the piano and if their parents tell you they do, they’re lying!

I was enjoying a meal with a concert pianist friend of mine recently and I was discussing Piano Girls’ (often extreme) lack of willingness to practice.

“Oh yes, I hated practising when I was little” my friend said. “It wasn’t until I was about 10 or 12 before I realised – oh, I’m kind of good at this and I actually kind of like it.”

Well, that makes me feel a bit better, I said, when did you start learning piano?

“When I was 4 ½”

Good grief! So, I could possibly have another 6 years of this struggle ahead of me???

“Yes,” my friend went on “Sometimes I would record myself playing onto a tape and then when Mum was gardening I would play the tape over and over again. The irony of course was that I was actually sitting at the piano at the time – I was just reading a book.”

Parents, beware of this move!

Piano Girl has only been learning for 8 months now but she has already pulled that trick! She popped an accompaniment CD from A Dozen a Day on a couple of months ago and was sitting on the couch reading a book. I put my head around the door to tell her that I knew
it was not her playing, all the while trying to hide my smirk!

Although Piano Girl knows that we expect her to practise every day, or at least 5 times each week, she still doesn’t like it.

Do you like your piano lessons? I ask her.

Yes.

Do you like your piano teacher?

Yes.

Do you like playing the piano?

Yes. I like playing concerts, I just don’t like practising.

Indeed.

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Four things Piano Mama learned at ProBlogger

1.There are Piano Mama’s everywhere

The first person I met asked me “What age should children start piano lessons?”

The next one said “My children do sport and music. Music is compulsory. They have a jar of ping pong balls in their bedrooms. When they practice they bring one ball from the bedroom and put it into a jar in the kitchen. If there are not 4 balls in the kitchen jar by Thursday, they are not allowed to go to soccer training. If there are not 5 by Saturday they miss the game”.

The third person I met said “I’m forcing the boys to go to choir. Piano and Singing lessons are two of the things that have really made a difference to my life and I am so grateful to my parents every day that they gave me those opportunities and that they made me practice.”

The fourth person said “My son has just started learning piano this year….we’re not taking it seriously though.” Hmmm.

2. Lots of bloggers don’t feel especially confident

People had incredible tales to tell but many of them expressed concerns about how valid they thought their stories were.

I say back yourself.

Write down a list of things that make you awesome…it will make you feel more confident and make you realize that your collective experience adds up to an incredible life. This is what inspired me to write my Who is Piano Mama post.

3. Successful bloggers work incredibly hard

I know, I know….crazy, right? Successful people work really hard!

It was a really common theme with the bloggers (especially the ones that also were primary care givers to their children) that they get up incredibly early (5am) and work. This made me feel a bit more normal and comforted by the fact that when I am up working at 5am, there are other people up working, all around the country!

4. The QT Hotel is incredible

I was a wee bit concerned that I might not even make it to the conference simply because the bed was so incredibly comfortable. It really was unbelievable! The staff was the friendliest I have ever met at a hotel – EVERY other hotel I have ever stayed at could learn a thing or two from them. If you are ever considering a holiday or mini-break on the Gold Coast, I would highly recommend the QT.

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Who is Piano Mama?

For years I have thought of myself as a “failed musician” because I studied Classical Tuba (yes, really) at university, but no longer play professionally.

However, recently I have started thinking about how all my musical achievements have helped shape Piano Mama and I’ve been looking back with joy and pride.

So, in a very self indulgent post, here are some highlights from my professional playing career:

Itchy Feet Pep Band – A comedy marching band

In the late 90s it was not unusual for my three flat mates to arrive home from their office jobs on a Friday night to find me ironing my cape and getting ready to head out to a corporate gig in the city.

It’s thanks to the Pep band that I even have a passport! We were asked to send a small delegate to Hong Kong to play for 10 mins (yes, seriously) at a press conference for an event the whole band was returning for the following month.

The band also played at Royal Shows across Australia, festivals and private parties and contributed to a large portion of my income during my years at university and a few years afterwards.

Triangles Brass Trio – A Tuba, French horn and Trombone combo that I formed with two of my best friends from Uni.

I recently found a recording we made for a CD that the National Gallery produced whilst we were at Uni. I remember that during the recording I started laughing so much that I could not play and we had to stop production (actually I remember that the sound engineer and our supervising lecturer were not so impressed by my antics…)

Oxo Cubans – a brass, percussion and vocal band once described as “A five piece groove machine”

I was completely obsessed with the Oxo Cubans when I first discovered them; I had never heard anything like it. So naturally I was ridiculously excited when they asked me to join them for a regional tour of Victoria. I got to play the Tim Tam Slam, Roofrack, Letter L, U Can’t and a stack of other favourites. It was super fun, awesome to play with some of my musical hero’s and a great end to my professional playing career!

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – Sure, it was only a two day call and I didn’t actually play very many notes – thus is the unique problem for Tuba players – you need to practice for 8 hours a day to get the job in an orchestra, then you actually don’t get to play very much! But, I was chuffed to be asked, and during the two days we were recording the soundtrack for Babe Pig in the City, so I’ll always have the movie!

Total Fire Band – Banjo, Clarinet, Sousaphone – Trad Jazz Trio…they wore red braces!

I’ve loved jazz since my sister gave me an Ella and Louis tape when I was about 9. I had never really considered playing jazz until I met a Tuba player who was doing just that. On a few occasions when he was not available I got to play with the trio, including at a winery in the Yarra Valley on New Year’s Eve, 1998.

Essential Brass Quintet – Two trumpets, trombone, French horn and Tuba

A group formed at Uni that played for weddings, graduation ceremonies and all sorts of events that required a fanfare! We once opened for guitarist Leo Kottke, played for the memorial service for Princess Di and played at the State Funeral for George Fairfax.

My favourite gig with the quintet was playing for a Christmas Carol service each year with the National Boys Choir. There is nothing more spine tingling than playing lush carols in front of a wall of young, powerful voices.

And now…

I can still play the Tuba (and the Piano, Trombone and Trumpet/Flugelhorn) and occasionally dust off my case to play with our local community brass band.

Last month I took a Flugelhorn into kinder and played a game of “guess the song” for the 3 year olds.

At Christmas I join my husband, Super D, and some other neighbourhood friends in a “dusty cases” brass group to play some carols for our street party.

No one pays me to play anymore, but that’s actually OK.

Really.

Freddie, Eli and and some fabulous friends at the piano

There is lots you can do to help your child become interested in learning music – well before formal music lessons start.

1. Listen to lots of music

2. Sing lots around the house

3. Grab a set of Freddie the Frog Books and have fun reading them!

Freddie and his friend Eli live on Treble Clef Island. They have exciting adventures (as a frog and elephant are want to do) and along the way the technical language of music is introduced. These books are a great way to start looking at music and learning some musical terms before formal lessons begin.

The added bonus of the Freddie books is that they come with a CD – GREAT car listening!

Another bonus (for parents of the more technologically advanced variety) is that there is a free Freddie the Frog iPad app and other cool stuff you can download from his site.

We were lucky enough to meet author Sharon Burch a few years ago and she is truly a delightful human being! She gave my girls the very first ever Eli the Elephant toy, who now proudly sits on the piano and watches as we practice!

Eli