Archive for March, 2011

Mr. Severino Presents is going to be an ongoing feature of Blogging at Piano Teacher Press.  This feature is JUST FOR STUDENTS.

I do not think any blog on piano would be complete without bringing the piano student into the conversation.  The Mr. Severino Presents feature is meant to give piano students some new ideas and expand your way of thinking about your piano music.  We will be able to expand on some ideas that time doesn’t allow us in our private lessons.

What I hope YOU will do is to get your friends in touch with this blog so they can share in the fun of learning about music and especially the piano.

One thing I’d like to share is that the music you play shares in the great classical tradition of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.  Here is an example by a favorite composer of student compositions Friedrich Burgmuller.  If you have not played any of his compositions perhaps you soon will.  This one is a favorite with students.

What is common with this piece and with some compositions of the great composers is the FORM of the composition.  The Burgmuller Ballade is in ABA FORM.  ABA FORM is OREO COOKIE FORM.

The A SECTIONS “sandwich” the composition, in other words, they begin and end the composition with the same musical material. 

The middle section, the B SECTION, is brand new musical material. It contrasts the A SECTIONS.

Just like the creamy vanilla center of our OREO contrasts the crunchy chocolate outside cookies the musical material of our A and B SECTIONS contrast each other.  How would you describe the CONTRAST between the A and B sections of the Burgmuller Ballade?

Click on the green hypertext to view the manuscript of the Burgmuller Ballade in .pdf format. Burgmuller-Ballade

NOTE: It is recommended that you RIGHT CLICK and choose the selection OPEN LINK IN NEW TAB.  This way you can CLICK on the VIDEO and follow along in the .pdf manuscript.  There are “sticky notes” included in the manuscript to help you follow along the ABA FORM.

Now let’s see if you can spot the ABA FORM in Chopin’s famous Minute Waltz.  This is performed by one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century – Artur Rubinstein.

HINT: Listen for contrasts.  The A section is FAST so, what may you expect for the contrasting B SECTION?  Can you determine the time that each section begins?

Finally, can you spot the ABA FORM from the very popular Rigaudon movement from Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin.

Click on the Mr. Severino Presents – ABA TIMING ANSWERS to see how well you did in finding the beginning and ending times for the ABA SECTIONS on our 3 musical examples.  Mr Severino Presents – ABA TIMING ANSWERS

I hope this little lesson proves the point that the music YOU are learning was drawn from the same great classical tradition that was learned by the very young Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.  You, even at the beginning of your study, participate in that grand musical tradition.

Thanks for participating in Mr. Severino Presents.  ‘TILL NEXT TIMEKEEP PRACTICING!!

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Last week we began a series on Your Desktop Studio.  This will be the second installment.

The next items I’d like to discuss are

PAPER CLIPS I have a system of using paper clips that are very useful for my organization of a student’s current work.  I have FOUR COLORS of PAPER CLIPS that represent different types of musical work.  These paper clips are found in the three green tubs and the glass bowl in the photograph above.

SILVER PAPER CLIPS —   Silver Clips are for our general work.  They easily identify the pages a student is working on for their weekly lessons.  Since a paper clip identifies both sides of a page, I always date the side of the page a student is assigned.  For my youngest students, I will always draw a stop sign on the final page of each book we cover in their lesson.  They will then know exactly where to end their piano practice at home.

The STOP SIGN, in my case written with a red gel pen, presents a strong visual image for students.  It is also looked upon as “fun” so they mostly always practice up to the page with the STOP SIGN.

What I often do after a student gets a piece to a “minimum standard level” (notes and rhythms are correct within, for the most part, a steady tempo) I ask the student if they would like to pass the piece or bring the piece to a higher level.  Both answers are perfectly acceptable.  If a student wants to pass, they know they can move on to a new composition; but if a student enjoys a composition, they know they can continue to play it for the purpose of bringing it to a higher level.  Within this upgrading of their performance level, students can also choose to memorize a piece or make the piece a “performance piece”.  More on performance pieces later in this article.

RED PAPER CLIPS —  Red Clips are put on all pages to be memorized.  Again, a quick glance will identify where memory compositions are located in a student’s books.  Once a student memorizes a composition, they receive a special sparkly smiley sticker.  Again, I don’t expect a rock solid flawless memory to get the smiley sticker.  Getting through the composition well, without major hesitations, will demonstrate the student has put forth an effort to deserve a reward for their effort.

BLUE PAPER CLIPS —  Blue Clips are used to identify a student’s performance pieces.  Performance pieces can be Recital Pieces, Audition Pieces (Guild Pieces),  pieces for school or CCD performances, and compositions learned for my Internet Page of Student Performances.  My Student Performance page can be found at http://www.pianoteacherpress.com/PLP-StudentPerformances1.html As a fun way to provide safety to the student’s identity I have each student select a “fictitious name”.  Their fictitious name is chosen from history or contemporary culture.  It’s a very interesting insight into a student’s personality in the fictitious name they choose.

I can also be persuaded to Blue Clip special compositions for major holidays when family members will be coming in town to visit.  To earn a performance sticker, a sparkly star, the student must bring the piece to the greatest level I think the student can achieve.

When a student brings a composition they choose for an Internet Performance, they also receive a little Performance Certificate as an added reward for their hard work.  The nice thing about the Internet Performances is that a quick eMail to a relative, containing the http://www. address, can bring a family together even if they live on another continent!  I have several students that keep in touch this way where the grandparents and aunts and uncles live in India.  Parents can also download the performances to make a CD to keep track of how their child improves through the months and years of their piano study.

WHITE PAPER CLIPS —  Finally, I use White Clips for those selections that are good compositions to keep on performing, even after they don’t need to be looked at regularly at the weekly piano lessons.  Often these will include finger exercises that are particularly useful to a student’s development.

This system makes for a quick organizational tool that both you and your students will find efficient for lessons and practice.

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This blog will be the first in a series that speaks to how I organize my immediate workspace from the chair in which I teach.  Within an arms reach I have 99.9% of everything I need to teach my lessons in the way I’ve found effective for my unique teaching style.  My goal in this series is to stimulate teachers to do the same for their unique teaching style.

This photograph is the view of my teaching desktop from the view of that famous “fly on the ceiling”.

Here is a view of the same area if you were sitting on my teaching chair.

THE CLOCK —  Of course, this is important to keep track of the lesson so one ends on time.   I teach in a very creative, non-systematic way so for me the clock is also very critical for me to evaluate if I have the time to go into a lengthy explanation of a technical matter.  I’ve been teaching since a teenager in the 1960’s and in that time have developed numerous “mini-lectures” to cover topics as the first use of legato pedaling, the overtone series, or even simple topics as the step or the skip.  If these topics come at the end of the lesson and I don’t have the time to cover this point as thoroughly as I wish, I will find other material to use to complete the lessons.  Some items are so foundational to my teaching that I cannot shortchange them with an incomplete explanation; e.g. the step and the skip.  So, even someone that doesn’t teach “by the clock” finds the clock a very necessary item for planning.

THE METRONOME —  In my early days of teaching I read that Chopin always had a metronome handy.  If it was good enough for Chopin I figured it would find benefit for me too.  Someone who does not teach “by the clock” certainly wouldn’t be one to teach “by the metronome” either but it has proven to be a very handy teaching tool.  One of the first lessons I teach students about the metronome is that it is a tool to use and not something magical.  I will play one of their selections at MM 80 and then at MM 84 and they will note very little difference.  The lesson is that there is no “magic number” for any musical composition; again, the metronome is an aid for practice.

The reason this is my first lesson on the metronome is that students seem to be very confused about using their metronome.  They invariably ask, “What number do I set the metronome on?”    My demonstration helps the student see that the metronome setting isn’t all that important.

LIP BALM —  Actually, this picture was taken during the winter season when my lips often get dry and I need the lip balm to keep my lips from becoming chapped and dry.  For the purpose of this blog, you may have entirely different needs.  Keep it close by.  My wife has taught me that you don’t need to have a lot, just enough to avert a crisis.  She will keep a tiny bottle of alcohol in her purse – just enough for an emergency, not a large liter bottle that you get on sale at your local pharmacy.  Women teachers probably don’t need this encouragement but for my male compatriots this may be a revelation.

I wanted to keep these blogs to about 500 words so I’ll cover the other items on my desktop in Part 2 of Your Desktop Studio.  Happy Teaching!!

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