Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Reading + Memorizing = Readerizing = Playing Music

When learning to play a piece of music, you have many options.

For players who don't read very well, the only option is pure memorization. Their reading is too poor to be of much help in a performance situation, so the piece must be learned by heart in its entirety. This is doable though the number of pieces you learn is limited by the number of pieces you can memorize. 

For excellent readers, pieces can be played with little or no practice. "Prima vista" ("first sight") reading is not very common but it does exist and it's an enviable skill which takes years to develop. The number of pieces you can play has no limit since you're not relying on memorizing. Few people attain a level of reading high enough to play all the pieces they want, but it's not impossible.

In between are the rest of us, and it's not a bad place to be. We can't read something accurately at full tempo the first time necessarily, but after say the tenth or twentieth time (or more) we do quite well. We partially memorize the piece, and read well enough that the sum of our memorization and reading skills are enough to play the piece.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Welcome to Empty Nest Piano Lessons!

Hi and welcome to Empty Nest Piano Lessons! My name is Ken Batts, I teach piano to adults in my home studio in Wellesley, MA. I teach many styles: Great American Songbook/Broadway, Jazz, Pop, and accompaniment (for example for singers and/or sing-alongs.

Not only do adults learn differently from children, they learn differently from each other.

Learning to play will involve coming up with your personal answers to the following three questions:

1) What are your short-term and long-term musical goals?

As kids our teachers and/or parents usually set these for us, which is one reason lots of us quit. I wanted to learn to play Beatles songs, my teacher and parents wanted me to play Mozart. So Mozart it was! Though, since I wasn't interested, I soon quit. That's a real advantage adult students have: you probably have a good idea what music you want to play – if not we can start there – and that is the music you'll study with me.

You also choose the frequency of lessons. You may need a week before you're ready for another lesson, you may need two weeks or a month or longer. So scheduling lessons is completely flexible.

2) What information do you need in order to play the music you've chosen?

If you want to play from sheet music, you will learn the symbols used (pitch, duration, rhythm and dynamics). There are great apps and method books to help you learn these.

If your goal is to accompany your singing and/or other singers and/or other instruments using lead sheets (which consist of chord symbols), you'll learn the structure of chords and the rhythmic patterns to play them. Both types of printed music – full sheet music and lead sheets – are available at all levels of difficulty.

3) What method(s) of practice will you use?

This is probably the most important one, and the one neglected by most teachers. You need a method that is productive and is pleasant enough to allow you to enjoy practicing. I'm not saying that practicing will never be challenging, but you learn to control the level of difficulty so you'll enjoy practicing and are more likely to stick with it.

And that's it.  Learning to set reasonable goals, getting the information you need to achieve them, and a learning a method for putting that information into practice.

The best way to find out more detailed information is to call me: (617) 962-5352. I guarantee there will be no pressure.  Learning to play the piano is one of my favorite topics so I'm happy to talk with you about it, answer questions, etc. and the conversation doesn't need to lead to lessons, but it will hopefully be helpful to you.