The local bus

Have any of you travelled by the NNMT buses here in Navi Mumbai? They’re surprisingly reliable, and have very comfortable benches, unlike the air-conditioned buses which have the most uncomfortable chairs. And all that noise and rattling can be pretty relaxing!

Here’s a poem for those of you who have stopped travelling by bus. Hope it brings back good memories. Continue reading The local bus

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Kharghar is burning

I wrote the following poem many years ago, when I had 2 years of laryngitis due to the burning of garbage on the roads outside our earlier residence. It was common, so an ENT specialist had her clinic details posted on the society notice board!

Diwali, a festival of new beginnings, is the time I don’t walk down the streets. Firecrackers used to start well in advance of the festival, but this year seems better, and I’m grateful for it.

Still, roads don’t usually get cleaned immediately after Diwali here in Kharghar, and the remains of firecrackers and the strong smell is a health hazard for many. This year seems a little different and people are starting to realise that we need to change and find new, non-polluting ways to enjoy the festival. I hope this trend continues.


 

Kharghar is burning and nobody cares.

There’s often a strong smell of smoke in the air.

Garbage collection is not a routine,

And waste segregation still is a pipe dream. Continue reading Kharghar is burning

5 Thoughts to help you find the Piano Teacher that’s best for YOU

Families new to piano lessons can find the search for a new piano teacher quite confusing. I write this post to help these parents and students who have difficulty assessing which piano teacher or lesson format is the best for them.

Your child’s first piano teacher will set the foundations of his/her musical growth. The quality of learning at beginner level is important, as it determines whether the student will stay motivated enough to continue learning more. Continue reading 5 Thoughts to help you find the Piano Teacher that’s best for YOU

Practise is, a reminder for piano students

Here’s a reminder for beginner piano students. A list of all the things they need to keep in mind, so they get the most out of their practise time.

Because effective piano practise is fun. It’s a challenge. It’s working smart and pushing boundaries. And a time to relax. All these seemingly contradictory things, all the same time.

Continue reading Practise is, a reminder for piano students

A step-wise approach to mindful piano practise

Practising the piano is different from playing.

Practise often involves playing just small sections of your piece, using specific techniques learned in piano class, to get lots of improvement using less time. Students need to ‘practise’ as well as ‘play’ their pieces daily.

Students often just play through their pieces, thinking they’re practising. Piano practise should be a time of attention to detail and focus, but so often ends up being mindless repetition. This often leads to breakdowns & insecure playing during piano performances. Many many young students who say they panic and are therefore unable to perform, actually have the ability to perform well, when they use the right tools to practise effectively. 

Here’s a check-list, to help piano students make mindfulness a part of their practise.

  1. Mark out the theory in a copy of your piece – notice chords, scales, inversions, repeated sections, sequences. Look at non-chord tones and get out your theory book, figuring out what kinds of non-chord tones your piece has.
  2. Read hands together as far as possible. Each teacher has a different approach, and one size does not fit all. I teach my students to learn pieces, reading them hands together from the very first, because I feel that it helps them develop better coordination in the long run. Students who are not used to this, make the switch quite comfortably, once they started practising paying attention to theory (as in point 1).
  3. Play SLOW and CORRECT rather than fast and with errors.
  4. Pay attention to the instructions your teacher gives you on playing technique. Posture, the height & kind of piano stool you use, relaxed shoulders, hand shape, whether you should play with your finger, hand, wrist or arm matter. The speed at which you depress the keys matter. The point of the depression of the piano key, at which the hammer hits the strings matter.
  5. When practising a section again and again, take your hand off the piano and take a short break between repetitions. This forces your brain to get involved, because then, you need to re-figure out hand position, fingering, and all of the thinking you did before you played.
  6. Follow your teachers instructions, reading your homework book before you practise, so that you do section work as instructed.
  7. TRY what your teacher has asked you to do sincerely, before taking a call on whether it’s necessary or not. Students with very set ideas and with mental blocks about how things should be done take time to learn new ways of doing things, so they need to keep at it a while before their ways of thinking allow them to benefit from a new way of practise.

 

Misconceptions on injury while playing the piano

There’s a misconception with some students and parents – particularly those from families new to music, that overpractise and injury is a part of the creative process. That hard work is a goal in itself. That practising long hours is to be rewarded, even when the student practises mindlessly, and is actually risking injury because teacher instructions on playing technique are not followed. That hand pain is good as it is a sign of hard work.

I’m always horrified when I get student families that think this way. Changing this mindset was hard and sometimes impossible when I first started teaching in Khargar, Navi Mumbai, and most of my students were beginners. It’s getting easier now, because my newer students have an opportunity to  hear students who have been with me longer, play for them.

Effective playing technique protects your hand from injury. If you experience pain when playing, you’re doing something wrong. Don’t repeat that action. Stop & think about whether you’re following your teacher’s instruction about playing.  Take your problem to your piano teacher at the next class.

Remember that the key to quality playing is to learn slow, with the correct playing technique. Using your hands in the most effective way, keeps your joints and muscles free from undue effort and this will help you with playing fast, and lasting out in long pieces.

Move from intermediate level to more challenging repertoire, having learned how to make your practise effective. If you’ve learned what your teacher taught you well, you will be able to do this mostly on your own with pieces or passages that are well within your ability, by the time you reach the advanced level.

Book Review : The Art of Piano Fingering

18986566_10155382987668792_172304223_oThe Art of Piano Fingering by Rami Bar-Niv is a wonderfully detailed exploration of piano fingering. It’s become my textbook for when I get stuck with fingering and need to study it in relation to playing technique, hand size and the kind of effect that a passage of piano music requires the pianist to produce. Continue reading Book Review : The Art of Piano Fingering