Monday, 26 May 2014

Don't be Scared of Sight Reading

To most who complete music exams, sight reading is that part of the exam that scares people.  That scary examiner will place an unseen piece of music in front of me and it will be really hard.  I will be expected to play it really well with no mistakes and if I don't I will fail the exam!  My palms will go all sweaty and I will completely forget how to read music at all!

STOP!  Sight reading is one of the most important parts of music.  It is also one of the best bits.  It is when you buy a new book for an artist you like.  You open it for the first time and go to your favourite song.  You sit, figure out the time signature (common time most of the time for popular music), the key signature (thank goodness for music theory lessons) and get started.  The piece slowly comes together and you realise you are now playing your favourite song from the album.

Let us clear one thing up.  Even musicians who have played all their lives DO NOT play new songs perfectly the first time.  Everyone needs to find their way with a new piece and this is called sight reading.  The polished performance comes later on, after having gone through the song a number of times.  Some, more difficult songs may even need breaking up into small chunks, one line or even one bar at a time until you master that really tough bit with 5 notes at the same time with lots of dotted notes!

All this is normal.  Examiners expect it.  You should expect it.  Take your time - aim for accuracy rather than speed in your playing.  Take car to take note of the key (so many people miss this!)  When you come across a hard bit - don't give up.  For those of you who have played traditional video games such as Mario - see the more difficult bits as that level on Mario that you keep falling off the the same platform.  I can guarantee you will get frustrated, but when you finally make the level (or polish that section), you feel SO good about it.

Sight reading is fantastic.  Try it - often.  Don't be afraid of making mistakes and realise it is normal to battle through a new piece slowly.

Want some pieces to sight read?  Our student area on our own music school website has a range of pieces for students to sight read.  Why not log in and try one today?

Friday, 9 May 2014

How Can I Support My Child in Learning an Instrument?

When a child starts the journey of learning a musical instrument it is often the start of a very long journey.  To truly master any musical instrument takes years, often in the region of a decade in total.  That is a long time and many things can happen.  Your teacher could move on.  There could be a house move.  There could be a loss of interest generally.  Exams could crop up at school.

So how do we cope with this?

Well - the first thing is to realise that this journey is a marathon and not a sprint.  There are going to be times when your child hits the wall.  They really don't enjoy it at the moment.  Don't always be tempted to throw in the towel.  It could be that other things are getting in the way such as exams, or perhaps they just find it hard at the moment.  The flip side is that there are going to be times when progress is obvious and everyone is enjoying the journey.

Learning an instrument is about taking the rough with the smooth.

When there is rough - keep encouraging.  Communicate.  Find out what the problem is.  It may be something small that can be adjusted to get back on the right track again.  Take baby steps to get back on course.  Maybe 5 minutes playing something fun to relight the passion that had been there before - it often does come back.  Keep speaking to your Primavolta music teacher.  It is likely they will have noticed as well.  It is important to discuss different strategies with your teacher.  Only when all strategies have been attempted should the idea of stopping be considered.  After all, learning an instrument is not like riding a bike.  Once you stop, all that learning does tend to evaporate!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Exam Time - Italian terms

A number of students are fast approaching the final stages of exams, both in music and in school. Italian terms are often one of the areas that students find most challenging. How can we overcome this so we can do as well as we can in exams?  How can we possibly cram in all those words to get the best possible marks in our music theory?

Try flash cards. Looking at a list of words and hoping they sink in simply will not work. Our brains don't work like that unless you are lucky enough to have a photographic memory.

With flash cards we write the Italian word on one side and the English meaning on the other - use crayons or felt tips if you like. Laminate them for the future if you have time. We then lay out the Italian words and time how long it takes to say out loud the correct meaning.  If you turn the card over and the wrong meaning has been given, add 10 seconds to the time.  The first time you try this may involve many penalties, but these will become less frequent the more you try the activity.

The aim of the activity is to reduce the time, have a bit of fun and learn the words. Your brain is much more likely to pick up these words if you make a game of the activity as well!

Friends and family could also get involved in this game or even accompany with some music in the background!  Flash cards don't only just work for music. They can work for keywords in any subject. Let us know if it helps and if you tried a different approach to learning your Italian terms.