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30/06/2018

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ABRSM Misprint?

If you are learning Blues in the Attic from the ABRSM Grade 3 2019/2020 Syllabus then read this.


Do you see what I see? The triplet quavers at the end of the bar would mean that the RH part of this bar has only three and a half beats (the piece is in 4/4 time). When I first noticed this, I decided to phone the ABRSM to let them know it was a misprint, or so I thought. Within a few hours they got back to me stating that the part was in fact, correct. The digit "3" under the group of quavers was actually a fingering, not a triplet marking. Well the notation here is at least ambiguous, so much so, that I'm sure many would read it as a triplet, indeed the number one result in a YouTube search for this piece, at the time of posting this, (a channel I would not recommend by the way, for students looking for good example performances), plays this three quaver group as a triplet. 

However, we now have it on good authority that they are just three normal quavers and so in fact there is no misprint. As a guide for the future, I decided to look through other pieces from the syllabus and found that all other triplet markings are in fact in a different type face, that is italicised. So if you ever want to know if a digit is a fingering or some kind of tuplet, fingerings are always in normal type face, tuplets are always in an italic type face.

Please share this article with anyone either teaching or studying this piece as I am sure it will be a common area for ambiguity.

For a hear how this piece should be performed and a fuller tutorial please watch the video below.


30/05/2018

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Solitary Confinement - The Downfall of a Musician

The majority of Music Students spend over 80% of their time playing their instrument practicing in solitary

According to a recent survey I conducted on my Youtube Channel - The majority of Music Students spend over 80% of their time playing their instrument practising in solitary, that is, not to an audience or with others e.g. in ensembles/lessons. IF THIS IS YOU - read on....


It is true, that to be a good musician you need to spend many hours practicing. However, this very act in itself can be the downfall of a musician. We can spend so much time perfecting our technique or a particular piece, that we can lose sight of the reason we started studying music in the first place. Ask yourself now, "Why did I start learning an instrument? Just to perfect a certain piece and pass exams or to share the talent I have with others?"

Even thinking about that aspect of taking exams, it is interesting to note that the ABRSM criteria for a distinction on your pieces mentions, 
Vivid communication of character and style
Your aim is not to just play the notes correctly, but to convey the composer's intentions, to communicate emotion through musicality and this can be much harder when practicing on your own. I can speak from personal experience, that when I am playing to an audience, the senses are heightened, I feel a connection with the audience and that gift of communicating emotions to them through my instrument is a rare opportunity that many people on this planet will never have.

Added to this, practising on your own for long periods, can have negative psychological effects. You could liken it to working in a dead-end job where no-one seems to notice what you do and this mundane monotony can find it's way into your playing. On the other hand, playing well to an audience gives you the performer a reward. To use our work analogy again, wouldn't you feel more motivated in your job if someone acknowledged your efforts, praised the work that you do. As a musician, I guarantee you, sharing your music with others, will make you a better musician. 

"But I need to practice", I hear you say, "and I don't have the opportunity to play to others everyday." Well, I have an interesting exercise for you. Find a piece that you consider is up to performing standard and make an audio recording of it, trying to communicate the composer's intentions as if playing to a live audience. Then listen to your recording and be your own audience. You will be surprised at what you hear, that you never noticed when you were playing. Then, I have another proposition for you. I have opened a new discussion post on the MusicOnlineUK Forum HERE on this blog, where you can upload and share with the community, your recording and also listen to other people's recordings on which you could give feedback. It will be like having a virtual audience, complete with the "reward of sharing" that I mentioned earlier.

Of course, nothing can beat the experience of a real live audience, but if such opportunities don't come your way that often, I would encourage you make use of this community and not just keep your music confined to the privacy of a practice room.

If you found this post useful - please share using one of the social media buttons below

23/05/2018

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GDPR for Music Teachers - Make sure you are LEGAL

If you live in a European country, you have probably received a whole load of emails recently, from companies asking you to accept their updated privacy policy. This is because the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force on 25th May 2018 and requires that all businesses issue a privacy statement to all clients and contacts, regarding the data held about the individual.

GDPR for Music Teachers - Make sure you are compliant
This also includes music teachers, as they hold personal data about their students such as phone numbers, email and postal addresses, dates of birth (for exam entries) etc., and these are often stored on digital devices such as phones or computers. It will become a legal requirement on 25th May 2018, that all businesses which hold data about individuals comply and non compliance can incur fines of up to €20 million, or 4% annual turnover – whichever is higher, depending on the severity and nature of the infringement.

This article will explain what you need to do if you are a music teacher and want to stay legal.

Basically, any processor of personal data must disclose what data is being collected and how, why it is being processed, how long it is being kept, and if it is being shared with any other parties. Users have the right to request a copy of the data collected by a processor and the right to have their data deleted under certain circumstances.

Here are some questions that might help you ascertain what you need to do.

1. Do you have a record of the personal data you hold?

2. Have you explained to your students why you have personal data and how you use it.

3. Do you have a plan in case people ask about their rights regarding the personal information you hold about them.

4. Is your storage of data secure. This can include locking filing cabinets and password-protecting any of your devices and cloud storage that hold your students personal data.

There has also been some confusion as to whether music teachers need to register with the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) that keeps a register of all businesses that hold data about individuals in the UK.

Most organisations that process personal data must notify the ICO of certain details about that processing and this includes a £35 admin fee. However, the Act provides exemptions from notification for organisations that process personal data only for accounts and records in connection with their own business activity and some not-for-profit organisations (i.e. if you give piano lessons for free) and organisations that do not process personal information on computer (i.e. if you only have hand written records)
Further information about these exemptions can be found here
https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/exemptions/

So basically most teachers won't have much to worry about or do, to be in compliance but they should provide a privacy statement to which all their students should consent and I have made a sample privacy statement which you can copy and use for your own students HERE

Please do pass on this article to anyone who you think is affected by this new law coming in tomorrow and make sure that we all stay legal.

21/05/2018

ABRSM 2019 Piano Syllabus.

The New ABRSM 2019-20 Piano Syllabus will be released on 7th June, but you can pre-order your copy NOW

      
      

16/05/2018

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Depth vs Breath

You've probably heard the phrase, "Jack of all trades, but master of none", and this can apply to the way we learn our pieces. However, it can also be the case that opposite describes more often many students.


You've probably heard the phrase, "Jack of all trades, but master of none", and this can apply to the way we learn our pieces. However, it can also be the case that opposite describes more often many students.

A typical student will practice three exam pieces for a very long period of time and know them in great depth, be able to perform them from memory, know every dynamic, articulation and nuance, even in their sleep. This in depth knowledge is very important and the ability to play a piece as the composer intended it is not only rewarding to the performer, but also to his audience. However, considering that the average period of time between exam grades can be just under a year, there is not a great breadth of musical experience happening if this is all that a student practices.

I want you to think about what aspects of taking an exam are your weak areas. Many of you will probably answer, "sight reading and aural." I have mentioned before about not letting music lessons just become an exam factory and playing a wide breadth of music albeit in not so much depth will do wonders for these two areas. You might be thinking, "OK sight reading I get it, playing lots of different music will definitely improve my reading skills, but Aural? How does that work?"

I will let you into a secret. Have a guess which video on my YouTube channel gets the most watch time of all my videos every month? It is the one entitled "E Aural Trainer - Recognizing the Style and Period of a Piece of Music". That tells me that this is an area that many are looking for extra help with. Now, I'm sure you'll agree with me, if you played fifty pieces of music a year instead of maybe just three with a little analysis of where they came from, I'm sure this aspect of Aural Training would be less of a problem.

So where do you find such material to broaden your musical experience. Well for example, if you are an ABRSM student you will have a book of nine pieces (or more for grade 8) of which you have only prepared three. It seems a bit of a waste to never even look at the other six. And if you are above grade 1, you will also have old books from lower grades. I would suggest you just play through some of these pieces from lower grades, maybe spending no more than a week on any particular piece. Then again you can try and play in ensembles or if you are a pianist, maybe accompany other instrumentalists

I would be interested to hear from you, how many pieces a year do you reckon you get through, even if it is  just three and how this topic of depth versus breadth has affected your  musical experience.


             

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