“Sound before symbol”: lessons from history

Andrew Eales is a pianist, teacher and writer based in Milton Keynes UK, where he runs his independent music education business and creative outlet Keyquest Music. Among his many activities, he writes interesting blog posts at pianodao.com. This one particularly impressed me not only because I agree with a “sound before symbol” teaching philosophy, but also because Mr. Eales did his homework to provide a historical context for this stream of thought. Bravo. – Bradley Sowash. “Sound before symbol”: lessons from history Author: Andrew Eales Musicians and teachers often debate the relative merits of aural-based learning versus a notation-driven approach. Seeing the topic wheeled out for discussion again this week, I was reminded of this brilliant quote by the legendary concert pianist Andor Földes, taken from his book “Keys to the Keyboard” written back in 1950 : “There is no such thing as a proper age for a child to start playing the piano. I avoid saying … Read more…

Pentatonic Power Part by Laura Lowe

I’m happy to repost this excellent article from a blog by Laura Lowe.  Since attending our 88 Creative Keys piano improvisation workshop, Laura has become an advocate for fostering creativity alongside traditional music reading skills in the piano studio and that makes me happy. – Bradley Sowash Author: Laura Lowe In my last post, I explained the pentatonic scale and why it’s such a useful tool for for helping students learn to make their own music. I’m discovering that lots of folks aren’t familiar with this scale and its versatility! Carl Orff and Zoltan Kodaly both incorporated pentatony (isn’t that a fun word?) in their widely-used methods for childhood music education, noting that it was a native tongue for the folk songs children already knew and also that the absence of half-steps made it easier for children to sing in tune. In elementary classrooms today, children often play onOrff instruments which their teachers … Read more…

What Will My Teaching Philosophy Be In Regard To Improvisation? – Laura Lowe

I’m happy to repost this thoughtful post from The Piano Studio blog by Laura Lowe. Laura cares deeply about her piano teaching philosophy. Here, she shares her thinking process about the role of creativity in music education. Her attendance at the recent annual 88 Creative Keys “camp” inspired fellow teacher attendees as well as the instructors. – Bradley Sowash ——– What Will My Teaching Philosophy Be In Regard To Improvisation? The 88 Creative Keys Educator’s conference only lasted 3 days, but my head is still there. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store. I just needed a couple of items, but I also came home with a beach ball, dry erase crayons, some cute little rubbery animals, and a magnetic fishing pole. This is what happens when you spend 3 days with a creative teacher like Leila Viss. Suddenly, everything looks like something you could use while teaching piano! Stay tuned in the days to … Read more…

Teach Your Students to Improvise Using … Silence – Doug Hanvey

Guest Writer: Doug Hanvey Teach Your Students to Improvise Using … Silence Perhaps more than any other musical activity, improvisation brings music alive for a piano student. Occasionally closing the music books and allowing your students to improvise is not only fun but helps them to better appreciate the creative space from which the greatest composed music and, of course, the greatest improvisations, come. I’ve always believed in the “less is more” philosophy. One of the hallmarks of a trained yet still artistically undeveloped improviser is someone who plays – all the time. There are no spaces, no rests. But as we know, music is a combination of sound and silence. John Cage took this fact to the other extreme in his famous composition 4’33” (which he called his most important work!). Here’s a simple exercise and variation to try with improvisers of any skill level. It will help you teach … Read more…

A Personal Journey With Students Into The World Of Improvisation – Jodie Jensen

Guest Writer: Jodie Jensen At the end of the academic year last May, I was in sore need of a different approach in my studio teaching life. After attending the MTNA conference in Chicago, I learned just enough about improvisation, teaching improvisation and the eye/ear revolution to push for a change to my current mode of operation. My biggest question/frustration was how to I revamp my teaching to make these principles a solid part of my teaching life. I am an old dog and new tricks are not really a part of my aging process. I also thought I had been doing a rather good job of covering all the bases as a music teacher. Hadn’t all my ABRSM practical exam entries passed with high marks? What could possibly be wrong!???? What was causing me to feel frustrated? Why did I feel students needed more than to just reproduce music instead of recreate music, embellish music and then … Read more…

A Piano Camp that Grooves and Glows? – Leila Viss

The definition of a master teacher is one who takes someones else’s ideas (in this case, mine) and customizes them to the style, pacing, and ability level of their students. Teachers take note: This is what great creative teaching looks like in action. – Bradley Sowash A Piano Camp that Grooves and Glows? By Leila Viss (reposted from 88 Piano Keys) A good friend of mine has called me a synthesizer. Not a keyboard with buttons, bells and whistles but a person who gathers information and ideas and blends them into a new concoction that suits the flavor or need of the day. That happened last week while holding my annual Piano Olympics camp as I was in search of some activities to create three 2-hour days that coupled fun with learning. My biggest concern was my level of motivation this late in the summer as the past two months were jam-packed. I was part … Read more…

Even Young Kids Can Create at the Piano: 3 Easy Tips for Getting Started – Kristin Jensen

I’m happy to welcome Kristin Jensen as a guest writer.  Kristin is a piano teacher who specializes in teaching younger children how to create their own music.  Her philosophy of mixing creativity with traditional skills is exactly what the Eye Ear Revolution is all about. – Bradley Even Young Kids Can Create at the Piano: 3 Easy Tips for Getting Started Tip #1 Encourage Exploration You wouldn’t believe how many adults tell me that when they took piano lessons as a kid, they felt like their teacher discouraged them from exploring and creating. It was probably unintentional. There’s never enough time during a lesson to accomplish all that we need to. Because we feel rushed we try to get through all the critical elements and expect the student to stay on task—and that can mean no time for playing anything other than the assigned material. If we’re not careful, students can … Read more…

The Four Arts of Music – Forrest Kinney

The Four Arts of Music is a model of music education centered on creativity rather than on performance. The need for this approach is seen by asking one question: Where’s the creativity in music lessons? Music is an art form—there can be no doubt of that. Yet, someone can play a piano skillfully without a trace of creativity. What, then, is the difference between a skill and an art? The answer is: creativity. Art requires creativity, skill does not. We assume that piano lessons involve creativity. But do they? In order to make them truly creative—in order to raise them to an art rather than merely an impressive skill—we must dare to ask a question that challenges our common assumptions: What is creative about piano lessons? Learning to read notes is valuable, but is this highly cognitive activity creative? Practicing technical exercises can be valuable, but creative? Or learning music theory? … Read more…

Online Lessons Make a Merry Little Christmas – Leila Viss

Guest Writer: Leila Viss Originally posted at 88pianokeys A while back I announced the onset of my online lessons with master improv teacher Bradley Sowash. I had my doubts but they were vaporized when our first lesson worked like a charm thanks to Facetime. My initial progress was measurable as reflected in this video. Although I did not record it, my left hand walking bass was top-notch thanks to Bradley’s tips and tricks. I was even able to improvise freely in my RH while my LH strutted with style between chord tones. Due to a flakey Wi-Fi, the next couple of lessons were not so rosy and what promised to be an hour of enlightenment turned into an hour of trouble shooting. Coupled with the flailing internet was the fact that my available practice time was sparse. Yes, I suffered through the typical plateau and even a valley as all piano … Read more…

Classical Pianist Tackles Jazz – Leila Viss

My friend and teaching colleague, Leila Viss blogs about topics related to teaching piano at 88 Piano Keys.  Since taking online lessons with me, she has begun a new series from her perspective as an adult student.  She plans to track her progress as she learn to add jazz chops to her already impressive skill set as a classically trained pianist.  She hopes it will inspire others to realize that anyone can learn to improvise and that despite  the poo-pooing of music purists, it really is acceptable (and fun even — gasp!) to dabble in improvisation and popular styles without compromising one’s training. Read her first installment here: Back on the Bench and Out of the Box

In Praise of Anderson and Roe – Forrest Kinney

88 Creative Keys is thrilled and honored to welcome Forrest Kinney! The MTNA jazz/pop track made lasting connections; one of them? a wonderful new friendship with Forrest Kinney. As he continues his efforts towards the cause of creativity, and speaks and writes with such eloquence, it seemed logical that he contribute to 88 Creative Keys.  Here’s Forrest’s reaction to the Anderson and Roe concert on Tuesday evening at the MTNA Conference. Last night I attended a piano concert given by the duo of Anderson and Roe at the annual MTNA national conference.  It was one of the most enjoyable, energetic, and historically significant piano concerts I’ve ever experienced. What do I mean by historically significant? I’m not referring to the obvious point that these masterful and attractive young performers lend classical music a new “cool” factor.  No, they did something last night that I haven’t seen in my lifetime, something that hasn’t been done … Read more…

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