At this time it is important to review, absorb, and finish. It is the end of the school year physically, mentally, and emotionally.
At the beginning of year I wrote “Fertilizing the roots” which refers to the idea of reinforcing the most basic concepts upon which the framework of learning is developed. The roots have been fertilized well. The students have good posture, and good ready position. The students can produce a good tone and move their fingers. They understand how to listen to singing/playing and copying the sound. They can play many pieces, and are learning the left hand.
In the last post I discussed the importance of transfer in learning. The students are in the process of transferring the ability they have developed in their Twinkles to the Right Hand pieces. Additionally, they are acquiring the left hand skills with very little instruction because they are transferring the learning from the Right Hand.
Also important in the development of ability is the contextual variety or differences in the pieces. An example which is coming up for the students is Little Playmates and Allegretto II which begin with the same notes and same basic rhythm. This challenges the student to differentiate between the two songs. Through repeated listening and practice they will be able to do this easily without confusion. This is the natural outcome of pattern recognition development which is discussed in the Twinkle Lesson post “Ability Development and pattern Recognition” By memorizing the aural patterns and connecting them physically and mentally they are internalizing patterns in a very different way from students who learn to read symbols and depend on the visual cue to “know” which notes to play. So, in addition to developing the ability to recognize patterns, we are developing the ability to understand the relationships between those patterns much like putting together words and sentences. They are able to “speak” and thus have a fluency and security in their playing. This is a much deeper knowledge/ability than having a piece “memorized.” Later the visual symbols represent the language which they can already speak.
After the student can play the correct notes with accuracy and tone it is important to help them keep the steady beat. The easiest way to do this is at home is to continue to sing while your child is playing. At lessons I do this by playing with the student. Also we are working on deep and light sounds. This is the same as natural inflection in speech. It is good to mark the places where I am demonstrating deep and light sounds in your score and then you can sing in that same way at the home practice. This will help them to feel the beat and rhythm, and thus will help their music have “feeling”. This is discussed in more detail in the post “On the rhythm”.
Now is a good time to affirm everything that they can do when they play piano. The concept of affirmation is presented in the Twinkle Lessons post “Affirm, Motivate, and Inspire” and is one of the Seven Principles of Core Education. This affirmation will help them understand on the emotional level (without the need for external rewards) how much they have really learned this year. As they practice, point out all of the skills they can do. It is not necessary to say that they are “good” or even “did a good job”, but only to affirm what they can do. Also, please affirm the process such as “you are able to do that spot 10x now” . That is the most important point to bring to their awareness now. Intrinsically, they will grow from this understanding. Emotional growth is part of Integral Learning. Integral learning is one of the seven principles of Core Education. For further reading, I have written several articles on the topic Integral Learning in the Core Writings blog. Dr. Suzuki’s famous quote “Character then ability” points to the recognition of developing the whole child. The purpose of “Talent Education” is to enable the student to develop physically, emotionally and spiritually as well as mentally.
“Playing by heart” is not just memorization. It is being able to play without extra thought, with awareness and feeling. The children have learned to play not only “by ear” but also with the feeling of their whole body, their whole self, not only from their “brain” or from the visual representation of the notes, but from the “heart”.
With our best intentions and effort the children can continue to play by heart at every practice, every lesson, and every performance. This is optimum learning.
“Piano Ability is Life Ability”
Last Twinkle Class Recital in the Studio: