User-Agent: Googlebot Allow: .js Allow: .css MusicOnlineUK: November 2017

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29/11/2017

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How to improve note recognition

In order to play fluently especially when sight reading a musician needs to be able to recognize notes instantly. 


I have in the past taken over students when they have changed teacher and noticed that when they are learning a new piece, or when they are sight reading, they will use acronyms such as "FACE" or "All Cows East Grass" when working out the notes. 
Using acronyms is OK for Music Theory when sight reading but is a very poor method of note recognition.

Maybe this describes you or if you are a teacher, describes some of your students. This technique would be fine if you were doing Music Theory, but for playing, it is a very limited approach. 

With this in mind I have prepared a "Note Recognition Flashcards" video where a note will appear on the screen for just a few seconds. You will need to play the note instantly before the next one appears. You can even use this video away from your instrument by simply naming the notes that you see. If you struggle with, or have a student that struggles with recognizing notes quickly, repeat this exercise a few times and you will soon be able to improve your note recognition.




Please let me know in the comments below if it has helped you to improve your note recognition.

18/11/2017

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The Art of Sight Reading

Sight Reading is a skill in which many people concentrate just on the pitch and forget about the rhythm.

Sight Reading is a skill in which many people concentrate just on the pitch and forget about the rhythm



With this in mind I am developing a new series of videos in which you play along with the test to force you to keep in time. Added to this, the skill of sight reading is developed by reading ahead  of what you are actually playing and so in these videos notes will disappear - just before you play them.


Give it a try with these pilot videos (more to come) and let me know what you think.

15/11/2017

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The Sound of Silence.

In my experience of teaching I often find that students don't know how to finish a piece. 

How to FINISH a piece of music.

They may have prepared really well, but as soon as the last note ends, they virtually spoil the performance. Today I want to talk about how to end a piece. What many younger students don't realize is that the last note is NOT the end of a piece. There is that moment, especially, but not exclusively, just after the end, when the listener needs to absorb what they have just heard. If you go to a concert hall, you may notice that the applause often does not start straight away. The audience is still taking the performance in. So when you finish a piece, don't be afraid to let that moment of silence happen. Don't jump away from your instrument as if shattering the "You could hear a pin drop" atmosphere. You'll notice I said, "don't be afraid". Some might find sitting like a statue for a second embarrassing, it takes confidence. Remember however, that the ABRSM marking criteria rate you not just on your technical abilities, but on delivering a confident performance and I would even go far as to suggest that, that moment of silence at the end might even be worth an extra mark in the exam.

I would like you to compare these two endings of a piece I recently recorded and see if you can understand what I mean.



I hope you could feel the difference in atmosphere at the end of the two extracts. In the first example it ends too abruptly, but the second example gives you time to absorb what you just heard. So the question arises, exactly how long do you hold the tension in the air before "finishing"? It's a little like rubato, you have to feel it, it can't be taught in a mathematical way, which again comes back to what I was saying about how an ABRSM exam assesses your performance as a musician. Another analogy: Have you ever heard of comic timing which one person described as 
one of those things where you know what it is when you see it, but you can't quite define it concretely, the "pregnant pause" right before the punchline?
I often suggest to my students, a piece finishes, when you notice sounds that you didn't hear before, maybe a car on the street, the buzz of an electrical appliance that's always there, but you never noticed. Give it a try and let me know what sounds you noticed.

08/11/2017

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Perfect Pitch - can it be learned?

Perfect Pitch, also known as Absolute Pitch is the rare ability to sing a note without reference to any other note. Some say that you are either born with it or not, but according to a recent poll I took with my subscribers, 55% of you said you believed it can be learned. So lets find out.
Perfect Pitch, also known as Absolute Pitch is the rare ability to sing a note without reference to any other note. Some say that you are either born with it or not, but according to a recent poll I took with my subscribers, 55% of you said you believed it can be learned. So lets find out.

The method we will use is called association which, in psychology refers to a mental connection between concepts, events, or mental states that stems from specific experiences. A little like Pavlov's dog. Let me explain. Have you ever made a mix tape or playlist that you listen to over and over again? After a while, at the end of any song in that collection you  can already hear the first note of the next song. Your mind has associated them, by them being repeatedly next to each other. The songs may even be in totally unrelated keys. In our experiment you are going to associate a sound of indefinite pitch, in this case, that of running water with the note A. Also, at the same time, whenever you watch the training video I want you to imagine the colour green and when you try to reproduce the note, imagining this association will help trigger those connected pathways in your mind.

At the end of this post there will be a  training video. You will need to listen to it many times daily, to train your memory to reproduce the note A. I would suggest the best time to listen to the training video is just before bed, so that your subconscious mind can absorb the new associations as you sleep. You could even go to sleep listening to it. However, the more times you can listen to it, the better the results will be. You can listen to it whilst you travel, when doing the ironing, when you're in the gym. Any time your mind is free. If internet access is a problem  and you can't watch the training video , I have also produced a downloadable audio on  which you can put on your ipod or phone to listen to offline.
This audio track repeats a few times with ever increasing periods of silence to develop your longer term memory and  the YouTube version will also contain some deliberate mid roll adverts. You are welcome to skip or listen to these adverts, either way the extra distraction will help train you to focus on that one note. Additionally, if you feel that the training is becoming easy, you can increase the periods of silence by pausing the video for a few minutes during the silence. I would suggest that after a month of repeated practice YOU too can develop perfect pitch. 

So ARE you ready. Please do come back here and let me know how you are progressing with the experiment. Good luck.

You can either watch the training video on YouTube below or download the audio file to use Offline HERE





02/11/2017

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The Way Ahead

Find out about the future direction of MusicOnline UK for the year ahead.

Following feedback I received from you about what you find useful  here at MusicOnline UK, this week I want to talk about the way ahead, my plans for the year to come, so as to best serve your music educational needs.

It seems that Aural and Theory Training are the most popular and my other videos with piano performances and sight reading practice less so. With this in mind, I will be completely redoing all the theory videos, improving the quality, and eventually producing printable worksheets for all the lessons on this blog. This is also to reflect the changes that are happening to the ABRSM theory syllabus for next year.  I have also had some requests for the higher grades in theory, and this will be a plan for the future. 

Regarding Aural Training and the video series "E Aural Trainer", you may have noticed that there were some PREMIUM videos added recently. After many hours of work producing these videos and creating a new paid subscription channel - MusicOnline UK PREMIUM, which gave more practice at the Aural Test requirements, YouTube announced 

  • On 1 November 2017, viewers will stop being charged for any existing subscriptions. We'll let all current subscribers know via email one month before paid channels are turned off.
  • On 1 December 2017, all paid content will automatically be made private.
But fear not, for those of you who subscribed to my paid channel, or those who would have wanted to do so in the near future  I have moved all these videos onto my Patreon page where for only a $2 per month subscription, which you can cancel at any time, you can access all these videos as well as the theory worksheets as they appear over the coming weeks AND your subscription also includes, private email support on any music educational topic even including marking a theory past paper if that is what you need.

Then there are the videos specifically related to piano. From next year I will be putting all new piano videos on a new channel specifically made for such videos, called "Chen Piano", so if you want to keep up to date with the latest posts in this area please subscribe to this channel as there will be no further piano performances on MusicOnline UK. However, I will start posting on this blog, teaching notes for all the ABRSM piano pieces when the new syllabus comes out next summer

The Sight Reading Trainer I will continue to update. I am  in the process of adding the 30 second gap to look at the test, reflecting better the exam experience, to all the original videos. I have also started a new series of the disappearing note - an advanced technique of sight reading which will force you to look ahead of what you are actually playing.

And last but not least - my weekly "Ramblings of a Music Teacher" will continue every Thursday.  I was touched by a comment made by Yvonne Han, on my recent questionnaire about what videos you like on my channel.

my weekly "Ramblings of a Music Teacher" will continue every Thursday.  I was touched by a comment made by Yvonne Han, on my recent questionnaire about what videos you like on my channel.
Please do let me know in the comments below what you think about the future direction of MusicOnline UK.

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