Piano Tutorial for Herbie Hancock’s ‘Chameleon’

This week we have been busy getting ready for grade exams. In the midst of business, we have managed to play some relaxing jazz music. One favourite for this week has turned out to be Herbie Hancock’s ‘Chameleon’.

You can find a good piano cover and tutorial here – it’s a nice listen on it’s own too!

Coping with Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety is very common – most musicians and music students would report to have suffered from it at some point in their lives. Even very seasoned musician admit to feeling very nervous before performing – for example, Rita Ora, the singer and recording artist, has admitted feeling extremely nervous before going on stage to the point where she feels like throwing up. She said that the only way for her to cope with it is to keep telling herself that she can only be as good as she possibly can and to do her best.

Now is the time of Grade exams and so many students are struggling with nerves.
There are some simple tricks to coping with performance anxiety – for some handy ideas, check out this list from http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/stage-fright-performance-anxiety#1:

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Performance Anxiety Treatments

Here are some tips to help you overcome your fears and shine on stage, on the field, or at the podium:

1. Be prepared: practice, practice, practice.

2. Limit caffeine and sugar intake the day of the performance. Eat a sensible meal a few hours before you are to perform so that you have energy and don’t get hungry. A low-fat meal including complex carbohydrates — whole-grain pasta, lentil soup, yogurt, or a bean and rice burrito — is a good choice.
Shift the focus off of yourself and your fear to the enjoyment you are providing to the spectators. Close your eyes and imagine the audience laughing and cheering, and you feeling good.

3. Don’t focus on what could go wrong. Instead focus on the positive. Visualize your success.

4. Avoid thoughts that produce self-doubt.

5. Practice controlled breathing, meditation, biofeedback, and other strategies to help you relax and redirect your thoughts when they turn negative. It is best to practice some type of relaxation technique every day, regardless of whether you have a performance, so that the skill is there for you when you need it.
Take a walk, jump up and down, shake out your muscles, or do whatever feels right to ease your anxious feelings before the performance.

6. Connect with your audience — smile, make eye contact, and think of them as friends.

7. Act natural and be yourself.

8. Exercise, eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and live a healthy lifestyle.

Keep in mind that stage fright is usually worse before the performance and often goes away once you get started.

Piano Cover of Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’

Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ is a piece that has become very famous over the past 100 years. Although initially composed for a full orchestra, it is equally beautiful on single instruments and for smaller ensembles.

We have been working on this with different students on and off for the past year. Recently, we rediscovered it after a teenage student heard it on the Alton Towers TV advert and wanted to learn it.

We discovered a couple of excellent tutorials on youtube – see below and have a go a home! The piece is highly addictive so be prepared to get hooked!

Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball’ – Piano Cover

This week we are working on Miley Cyrus’s ‘Wrecking Ball’. The piano cover of it is very beautiful – the melody lines come out nicely with a strong baseline in the left hand. Once again, Peter PlutaX has an excellent piano tutorial on youtube:

Piano Tutorial For John Legend

John Legend has some very beautiful songs – and as we all working with the piano know,he also loves featuring his piano playing skills in his videos!

For our all time favourite John Legend song ‘All of Me’, go on youtube and search for Peter PlutaX – he has an excellent youtube channel on piano tutorials – here is a direct link to his piano tutorial on ‘All of Me’:

A Perfect Travel Blog to Follow

If anyone is looking for an inspiring and truthful travel blog to follow, here is the perfect one to read! Written by our friend and fellow volunteer, she provides you with a truthful account on a young lady travelling and volunteering abroad:
https://days-of-adventure.co.uk/2016/12/30/the-first-time-i-travelled-solo/comment-page-1/#comment-638

Practice Makes ‘Perfect’

When you are learning to play a musical instrument, as with any other activity, practice is key. It takes time not only to learn to read musical notation but also for muscle memory to develop. Students new to learning always ask us how much time they should be dedicating to practicing and how many hours a week they should be spending playing their instrument of choice.

As with any practice, consistency is key. We often advice students to do some practice every day, even if it is just 10 minutes. At least this way our brains and muscles do not have too long a break in between practice sessions and are more likely to develop quicker than if more time is left in between practices. What often happens is that students spend longer than the 10 minutes practicing anyway – once you start playing and enjoy it, you feel like doing more of it! More advanced students often find that even half an hour is not enough – with longer pieces and technical exercises, time goes by very fast.

Rather than focusing on time spent practicing, students should focus more on the enjoyment they find in playing and the outcome of their practice – it is a great feeling when you have learn a new piece and can play it fluently from the beginning to the end.

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Grade Exams for all Instruments

We receive many inquiries and questions about the graded instrumental exams that have become very popular nowadays – not only for assessing someone’s level of music education but also for gaining extra points for getting places in institutions such as secondary schools. Anyone can register for such an exam, which are organized and monitored by an independent examination body. Passing the exams gives a more formal and clear idea on one’s ability to play a specific instrument as well as their overall musical ability.

The exams are carried out three times a year in the autumn (October-November), spring (March) and summer (June-July). Generally we encourage students to do a grade per year of learning, though at times it might be possible to do two grades per year. The exams can give one focus and motivation to practice and learn; however, they should not be the sole focus and other materials in addition to exam pieces should also be played and practiced in order to develop as an all-rounded musician.

If someone has been playing an instrument for quite some time and hasn’t yet done any grades, it is possible to start on later grade. For example, go straight to grade 2 or 3. Your teacher can assist you in understanding your level of playing in relation to the graded exams.

For further information, for booking an exam, ordering exams books or any other details, please see:

http://gb.abrsm.org/en/about-abrsm/

 

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Music Lessons and Social Class

The United Kingdom is the last country in Europe to still hold onto its class system. There is still much talk and division between the so-to-say upper class, middle class and working class. These divisions apply to taking private music lessons as well.

What we have noticed over the past five years that we have worked closely in the field is that the middle and upper classes are more likely to take private music lessons. Initially you might think that it has to do with finances – taking private lessons is costly on long run. However, a study by the examination board for musical learning found that, in fact, money was not an issue but rather a general interest – people from working class were simply not interested in learning to play an instrument.

Now this raises questions on whether it was purely a lack of awareness and opportunities, whether working class folks simply never really thought of learning to play an instrument as it was simply not presented to them and it was not in their culture and lifestyle to do so?

As in any field, awareness is key – which is why we are setting up workshops and information events in more working classes areas of London in order to engage those who might otherwise never thought to do so. This way more people will not only learn a new skill, but also have a chance to relax through engaging in music, let music influence other areas of their lives (such as increase their level of concentration) and have a hobby that can prove to be a great way of releasing stress and ‘letting off steam’.

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You Did It!

Our friend  and colleague Ann Rich is currently in Uganda and has successfully fundraised £500 through Gofundme in order to foster 4-month old Faith Grace who is an orphan.We are beyond delighted to receive these news as this means that baby Faith will now be in safe hands and won’t fall into poverty and abuse.

Thank you to every single one who donated!