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My Current Technique

22 Nov

 

A glimpse of Angela M. Kneale's Piano techniques

 

 

Briefly on Technique

17 Nov

Technique for the lifelong pianist is something that one grows into from the time the young pianist is able to press her/his first key on the keyboard. This is much like any child who grows into becoming an all-star athlete in his/her chosen sport. And, I try to explain to students that playing with straight and un-curved finger is like trying to run a race with locked knees.

The mindful part of the developing pianist is within the inner-ear development and leads to a delicate/sensitive musicality which emphasises subtle tones to contrast the more bombastic elements of technical power. Lest we forget, the art is NOT to bang exclusively as a show of control of the instrument. Sometimes I have male student who see my small frame and try to outplay me. When, the focus and bigger show of maturity and refinement as a pianist is in the musical control of being able to play subtle and sometimes nerve-wracking slow passages perfectly.

11.11.11 Full Moon

13 Nov 11.11.11 APEC under the Full Moon
11.11.11 APEC under the Full Moon

11.11.11 a full Moon Shines

Editions- a mention

28 Oct

What edition are you learning _____ from?

Why is this important to any developing artist at the piano? It’s important because every note is crucial. What we see, hopefully as close to the Composer’s written hand manuscript as possible.  Close to the Composer’s notes written in his students’ studied scores. All, to “recreate” a hearing of the piece that is live and as close to the “intent” of the composer as possible. Or, to know that which is intended and bring out nuances that, debatable, reflect a historical representation of sounds leading to that piece’s interpretation.

So, Tuesday, I went to the small Honolulu music store adjacent to Sanders Piano on King Street. And, I asked if they had a Durand edition of the Debussy Preludes.  Apparently, not. There was a small dose of Debussy that wasn’t much thicker than Beethoven’s complete Sonatas in Henle and the Complete Mozart Sonatas in Presser. The Debussy editions available were Henle, Alfred, and Schirmer. There wasn’t even a Dover Edition. And, then I was left with one choice for the Preludes, and I cringed…it was the Schirmer Edition. Something I was told to NEVER work from (except for my Concerti for already set competitions to be one by the highest bidder- not I).

So, There are no fingerings in the Schirmer edition. The print itself seems too lifeless…I don’t know how to explain that, being that I am the daughter of a Printer. And, there is no acknowledgement of where this edition was derived. There is a 1900 copyright acknowledgement and international copyright claim posted with G. Schirmer Inc., ASCAP on the 1st prelude page. I’m not sure about the notes throughout the edition. And being that Hawaii already severely lacks resources, it is quite expensive for me to order books since there is no free shipping to Hawaii;- I’m still waiting for 2 shipments of books for students that were to be here on the 18th, and have still not arrived via USPS from Amazon (5 days left before I can formally complain.)

However, with some recordings and listening and a highlighter in hand I’ll mark any stray notes and accidentals, as I have done in comparing a Dover edition of Mussorgsky’s Picture’s at an Exhibition with an International Music Company, (Frankenstein edition) of Pictures at an Exhibition. There seem to be more errors in the Dover Edition.

However, The only really decent editions I have secured after my $30,000 solo music library of good editions that I secured over the years was stolen, like my good CD’s by by college classmates, is in some Sikorski editions. Not to mention college faculty stealing my old Chopin markings with all my other scores from my Music School basement locker It would be nice, if anyone has editions to send my way;- to drop them in the mail to me. Even IMSLP is difficult for me to afford in printing costs, due to the high volume of pages that comprise my repertoire. I’m sure there’s a pianist, or anti-pianist laughing about further damaging my career while helping plenty of “their own”. This is not something new I have to contend with, though I have a love of music that is very seperate from the people who make this a most difficult path to exist on.

 

Two Metronome Method differences

27 Oct

There are a few approaches when it comes to the perpetual ticking, tocking, beeping, and flashing that aggravates any piano cat to the point of metronomic annihilation.

The two approaches are:

1. Develop strong rhythm first and then later develop artistic technique.

The first way, is usually used with developing a good sight-reader and accompanist who won’t falter the tempo. These learners can become powerful sight-readers, and we see and hear them at auditions. However, many of them lack artistic sensitivity because they are literally just pounding out the notes without a significantly more skilled control of their voicing, crescendos, and rubato. They can make decent group players rather quickly, in band and other endeavors, however for some more picky ears;- they may not be a desired accompanist to perform with another inclined artist at a different instrument.

2. Develop a personal rhythm and artistic approach to the piano and then impose the metronome.

The second way is the reason why some students attend auditions and are given comments that say they have a nice musicality about them, but have a weak rhythm that needs work. However, the artistic process is long and to develop students to masterful maturity can sometimes take years. This type of playing is where they have developed their own sense of rhythm and musicality and phrasing that is pleasing to a well-trained artistic teacher’s ears, and then that tone and touch is put into the metronome beats. Even today, online, there are pianists who display their videos and have still not reached maturity with this process. That is to have a desire to play like a master with the Composers intended tempo, and not at a tempo that is convenient for themselves. It’s important for parents to understand and support this process at the Piano.

The difficulties and the “lost” art of musical artistry

Unfortunately, there is much teasing and ridicule that befalls students of both categories of metronome and rhythm learning. The students who are avid sight-reader early on make fun of the artists who are concerned about the shading of each note and “lack rhythm”. And the artists, who have musical control, usually remain silent for a long time, detest the hoards of sight-readers who lack a decent sense of rubato and musical phrasing to make sense of a contemporary period modern piece. The battle goes on until the second category artist catches up in sight-reading ability (that many mistakenly neglect for their lesson assignments).  The first category is full of learners who usually have a more solid attitude to secure work with the public and impress people with the quantity of music that they can make. This is because masses of people  in the USA can be easily impressed with a large quantity of piano music rather than the quality. However, many of these players are not going to be winning prizes for interpretation. But, as the piano industry changes and the art of creating musical control and tone becomes “lost”, due to a high number of electric keyboard players, more of the sight-reader (I expect) will win because they have more money to spend in their industry. Maybe in time, that will make them better artists. It’s difficult to say. I can only hope, as an instructor who was held to a high artistic standard, that the art isn’t completely lost among the American masses that are so abrasive and not understanding when it comes to these things. Yes, developing your own sense of rhythm, touch, and control at the piano way of learning is an art and tradition that is ultimately expensive in numerous ways. You must afford the time, humility in practice, and such until one day you emerge like a hard-pressed diamond who doesn’t expect any reward.

Differences of Adult piano/music lessons

27 Oct

Live without piano lesson regrets.

Piano teachers everywhere have heard parents talk about their own experiences with piano, and with some hint of regret that they didn’t stay with the piano. Adulthood is a wonderful time to learn the piano as a safe and enriching hobby that can be done easily in one’s home or office.

Why piano?

There is something, as an instructor, that makes me giggle when I hear colleagues who made the life commitment to teach stringed instruments. It usually occurs sometime when I’m walking down the hallway and I can’t help contain my laughter. I’m happy as a piano instructor that I don’t have to focus on getting a student to improve the sound quality of a squeaky tune. However, that’s probably the only laughter I get to have as a piano instructor. The things that I focus on improving as an instructor with pedagogical technique/method are far more serious in producing quality and quantity of piano music.

The Focus and differences of Adult piano/ music lessons

1. Training hands that are accustomed to other movements & using fine motor skills that are previously untapped.

2. Ear training in tonalities;-  the Adult ear has a musical awareness the new child learner is only forming.

3. Memory work that can, for some time at the beginning, be inconsistent from week to week. One week it’s easy for an adult to remember something and the next week the focus isn’t there. We adults simply have more pressing matters on our mind than most children. And, we have to mentally prepare ourselves to block out those thoughts and keep the cel phone turned off for the time that we are practicing, if possible.

Memory and focus for adults is one of the biggest trials for me as a piano instructor. And, I can also relate in adulthood. Adults simply have more things going on in life. And, unlike a life threatening rock climb, piano doesn’t require complete focus to stay alive, as an enriching hobby. For this reason, it’s important for adult learners of all ages to treat their time at the piano as a musical meditation time. When one begins to equate learning slow finger movements to a slow walking meditation, we have begun to enter a more focused mindframe. This level of awareness is needed in the first months of adult lessons so that performance frustrations don’t overwhelm the chance of success at the piano.

4. Performance self-conciousness for adult piano learners is usually higher than for children (who accept that performing is another kid thing they’re supposed to do, and all kids understand this). It’s important for beginning adults to perform in a peer friendly environment. Everyone has different amounts of time to give to their piano study in adulthood in order to maintain their adult responsibilities. And, this time is everchanging in our adult lives. We must be patient with ourselves and our life circumstance, breathe, and accept where we are at the instrument. It’s more important to embrace our piano study as a gift to ourselves, and accept any performance opportunity as a step in our progression at piano learning.

5. Musical awareness is a bigger difference with adults taking piano/music lessons. Adults simply have heard more, seen more, and experienced more in life than a child. Because of these factors and the life long experiential depth that has developed a full range of emotion;- adult learners who take their time at developing tonal/muscular control of sound will have more to express than many adept child performers. In part, as performers, we call this practicing the aura or emotional maturity of a piece rather than just practicing getting the keys and basic rhythm.

I hope that this helps adults who are looking into taking piano lessons. The most important thing though is to have fun with playing the piano and performing. For adults who want to begin on their own, I suggest checking out Alfred’s Adult Piano Course level one with CD. The CD is a bit “fast”, but work through the book at your own pace. Find a teacher to correct your written work in the book (which may be a good review if you’ve had prior lessons), and maybe if you feel ready;- assign some pieces.

I have my own 2-3 year syllabus that has 14 pieces selected from the Classical Repertoire for children or adults to learn from, and to expand their understanding of the Classical piano performance and dialogue. The pieces range from simple Bartok to Mozart and Bach, and then Mostly the Great Romantics – Beethoven & Chopin followed with Debussy and Shostakovich.

Aside from the above mentioned syllabus, I primarily teach adults how to work on anything that they want to play.

Black notes create imaginative rainbows

26 Oct

Black notes created dark Gregorian chant  music scores.

Black notes created sacred Baroque period music scores.

Black notes created noble Classical period music scores.

Black notes created passionate Romantic period music scores.

Black notes created the colorful Impressionistic period music scores.

Black notes created revolutionary Contemporary period music scores.

Black notes create our now Modern period music scores.

Children and adults alike are to imagine the colorful, articulated sounds that breathe life into the music. It doesn’t matter what color one prints the notes on the score, there are more techniques to learn than ever. Black notes have worked for over  since 6 BC. And, coloring those notes various colors does not necessarily make one a more articulate player on the modern piano.  However, the common modern tactic to keeping interest at the piano is to make it a more interesting experience to sit at the piano. Black notes, rewrote and written for over 2000 years of the human experience…now in color.

A harsh view to have- USA Classical Music Organizations

26 Oct

Since I’m writing from my point of view and over 30 years of experience and interaction with the MTNA and its member organizations such as the PMTA & LVMTA & DelValMTA, NYSMTA, Hawaii MTA as a minority Japanese-American female;- some people may not understand why I no longer support such organizations. Though, I may, if able, join time to time for students to audition at MTNA sponsored “competitions” and scholarships specific only to the organization. There are a good number of more reputable auditions that do not require membership in the MTNA. And, that is despite many piano teachers in the United States belonging to the MTNA as a large network.  The large network that houses under its roof the large part of “racism” or “no race” issues that are impressed upon me during different presidents running such organizations. So, rather than waste my sparse and precious minority female earned monetary resources;- I’ll concede as a trained grassroots organizer with specific skills.

Rough Analysis:

One problem is that the organizations are in themselves not educational institutions that offer collegiate and university level degrees. In addition to this, to date, there are no said “higher educational music schools” that give degrees to “ethnic minority” children under the age of 18 who excel at the piano, more so than many current musician’s in undergraduate studies. This alone creates tension and issues when speaking to well trained musicians who do not decide to pursue a further education in music. And, other sometimes less adept musicians use the college/ university setting to gain a perceived better standard of music education. The music industry is a make it or break it endeavor well before the normal college/ university entrance age.

The other is that continued membership is an entirely expensive endeavor for myself as a minority female who is expected to “pay her dues to the white world of music.” Anyone in that organization with a loathing of me for any reason can lash out at me. In my local areas I left for personal safety reasons and accusations that I’m a terrorist. This is because the area is predominantly caucasian, and I am of mixed asian/american descent with a my Manx name (similar accusations & behavior that lead to my brother’s death in 2005 and further racial insult after his memorial service;- not to mention a past teacher of my brother’s and I and prior PMTA president attending and not seeming to care to give condolences to us (his family), she seemed happy. ) Especially since 9-11 and my near relatives who ran a large international construction firm and who can’t help me in the USA due to espionage accusations.  I now maintain a very small studio and am at wits end trying to live in the USA.  Additionally, the cost of weekly lessons and the ill treatment and opinions by other piano & music teachers throughout the United States (especially of minority children- like myself at the time) affects who we see in the spotlight.  Maybe this standard is changing in the USA slightly. However, the prior availability of adequate information (via internet) was reliant upon word of mouth recommendations and information.

As a minority female instructor who received an undergraduate degree in music from Ithaca College, I know for a
fact that over 10 years of training prior to college entry was not a consideration in my admission to the college. Nor did I gain a “teaching certification” from my instructors during that time prior to college. Instead I paid dearly while being degraded for not being Caucasian in the Classical music industry, and additionally not being “Asian enough” by other Asians in the Classical music industry.

All of these professionals who belonged to the MTNA MENC and other like national USA based non-profit educational organizations were able to bear their very personal opinions of my “ethnicity.” Sometimes I flourished because of this consideration, and most of the time I got by of my own accord under undue criticism while these piano teachers took my money and years of my time away from my professional life.

I don’t recommend these organizations whole-heatedly as a result. And, as a minority;- under the wrong
leadership in one of these Music organizations;- it can be severely detrimental in numerous ways. Especially, if there are persons with ill political and racial views of particular groups of people. As an instructor with experience, we tend to attract support from like individuals. For this same reason, our studio can become a target for individuals & groups who are seeking out minority ethnic groups to divide and conquer. For some, they will call this “desegregating” though, they will in no way afford a minority instructor with well intended students and parents for our private studios. And then of
course are the other teachers who can easily network against someone of a different racial background, just because it’s classical music and they feel that because they are “Caucasian” they can represent Europe better, and for no other reason;- because Europe’s music is practically inherent in them.

I feel strongly that I am at greater risk as an American minority woman to join such organizations who politically manipulate things by praising certain egos overseas when convenient;- in an strong attempt to destroy my overseas family relationship further as a mockery of myself.

When I started my Studio

26 Oct

by Angela M. Kneale

I had been competing at the then named
MTNA Baldwin piano competition 1986 and MTNA Yamaha Piano Competitions 1989, 1990 etc. at
the Pennsylvania state level for 3 years (when making state level
just 1 year was unusual). I also had at least 2 years of choral
accompanying under my belt in High School for an approx. 80 voice
choir, and other special choirs. Though mostly I focused on my solo
work, outside of the occasional concerto competitions (reserved wins
for a particular other teacher’s daughter in the area, known fact
going into the competition) And, since I was a child, I alongside my
brother had some publicity playing at various local & Lehigh
Valley events and college repertoire classes for the better part of a
decade. This first 8 years of experience was the precursor to my
first advertised piano teaching in my 9th year at the
instrument prior to starting my undergraduate degree at age 17. I
can’t say there would be that many teachers/piano instructors like
myself who had success at competitions prior to commencing teaching.
I was never encouraged to obtain even an MTNA certification in
discussion of my “teaching career” for which I prepared for from
age 12.

 

The first method books that I used at
that time for beginners were Alfred d’Auberge, and the John
Thompson’s Scale Speller and Chord Speller for music theory. And, I
used Chopin Preludes and other Technique books with some older
students. My starting lesson rate at that time in the early 90’s was
a meager $14/ hr. And, my parents controlled how much time I was
allowed to teach on my piano, enough to pay for my own lesson for the
week with additional class and maybe part of my brother’s lesson. The
money I made teaching as a known child pianist went right back into
piano.

 

The good part of having such a low rate
was that I quickly secured a waiting list. I advertised in a local
area Penny Power for a reasonable/affordable rate with my lunch
money. Having the waiting list allowed me to be more selective about
choosing who stayed in my studio. And, I even had a small number of
intermediate students who were close to being my peers. I was able to
pick and choose who I liked to teach because some personalities were
not compatible with my own. This way I began to develop my
instruction style, and learned to have parent – teacher meetings.

 

My pedagogical study preparation was to
read two books about teaching piano under tutelage of my teacher at
the time. I knew from the Sokoloff influenced lessons I had, what
scale requirements were for Curtis Institute at the time (no internet
then). And, later heard that everyone thought I’d be wasting my time
to audition at Curtis due to my mixed-race and my family’s lack of
money in the US (the Curtis Institute supposedly seeking large
donations from any place). However, I barely touched on scales with
my first group of students and I had a more interesting time to teach
a student who had permanent dyslexia.

 

That was the start of my studio, I had
not many more than 10 hours of teaching at any time. It was my last
year of Senior High School that I began advertising my teaching. I
had other audition requirements, accompanying commitments,
performances, and schoolwork that last year. However, I completed
High School performing at my Baccalaureate service. I had scholarship
offers from every school to which I applied including;- University of
the Arts, Temple University’s Esther Boyer School of Music,
Westminster Choir College, Ithaca College to name a few. And, after I
left Pennsylvania;- decidedly for my safety (though proving untrue
later on), I managed to secure a handful of students while at
College.

 

My sophomore year of my undergraduate
degree was the beginning of my second decade at the Piano, and my
third year as a piano instructor.

 

FAQ- When to start a studio?

26 Oct

In the USA, business is business. Parents can start businesses to support their children’s futures. Though, for most people at the piano, it is a luxury and not a way of life. The time to start a studio, depends largely on one’s goals, their training, and their instructor’s tolerances. The downside of this is that Pianism is still an art and even the surly mobs of the USA consider almost anything they do “Art”.  So, for those people who actually have some respect left for the art of pianism;- there is tradition that is handed down to us, even in small quantity;- is better than none.

This is where Classical piano tradition has diverged from America’s passion with originality that consists usually of a daily burger. And, so many people enjoy the simplicity of knowing what to expect. Music itself is not a game of anticipation. Music has become something where the American audience likes to know that they were right. So, most performers who are winning over Audiences are simply giving the audience members key items, musical phrases that end simply as expected. There is no need for originality in music. There is only making sure that most people, who listen to simple music are always comforted with knowing that they are “correct” in their anticipation of where the music is going. This is difficult for most any composer to call original since it is a pattern that has been repeated, regurgitated, and embellished upon for over 3 centuries.

So, why on earth would anyone in their right mind start a studio at this point in time? What are they going to prove to the world and how will they make their mark? We know there are 1000’s of home studios that are springing up in the advent of major studio collapse. Like buzzing of bees that stimulates current hive collapse, the music industry is finding the sound frequency of anti-freeze more appealing than “intellectual” music.

Anyone can start a studio when they want. Music has simply become a generic version of the “hallmark card syndrome”. It’s simply a matter of maintaining a balance sheet where profits can outweigh the investment. Disrespect and annihilation of those of us who have cleared a small path to a higher perception has totalled the need for payment of our services, unless of course someone really expects and wants a reward for their hard work and appreciation for pianistic art.

Starting a studio solely depends on cash at hand, rewards, and parents or students playing a financial card game to run away with the grand piano dream. Anytime would seem to be appropriate, even if it is a plan over generations.

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