One of the quotes from The Creative Life conference that gave me lots of food for thought was one by Michael Card, “You can’t say everything all the time.” The more I pondered this, the more I realized how much I try to do this as a teacher. I want so much to equip my students with a well-rounded music education that I try to make sure that they do everything all the time. Isn’t that the oft-face and frequently discussed dilemma in music education circles – how do you fit everything into every piano lesson? Well, I finally have an answer. You don’t.
Instead of presenting students with a list of options or repertoire I’ve selected for them, our entire practice incentive theme (Project 28) this year is built around one question: “What do you want to be able to do by next May that you can’t do right now?” Actually, I’ve used that same approach for myself to focus on an area I’ve always wanted to improve: playing by ear. In light of that, I’ve written a guest post for EasyEarTraining.com outlining how I’m hoping to accomplish that goal. Here’s an excerpt:
Several years ago I enrolled in a pottery class at our local rec center. I was thrilled about the prospect of learning a new art, and had visions of creating an entire set of dishes that I could use for years to come. I was less thrilled when I completed the class eight weeks later with only a misshapen dish and an unstable vase to show for my efforts. I haven’t touched a pottery wheel since.My problem was the same as the one I encounter with most adult students who begin taking piano lessons from me. And it’s the same reason I’m not any good at playing by ear.The official diagnosis? Unrealistic expectations for the amount of time and effort spent to achieve the desired end.
Playing by ear does not come naturally to me. I’m not good at it. And I don’t particularly enjoy working on it because I usually end up stuck in a rut playing the same thing over and over. For years I’ve tolerated this musical deficiency while wistfully imagining that someday, somehow, I’ll wake up in the morning and find that I’ve magically acquired the gift of playing by ear. Well, Christopher’s fabulous post on learning to play by ear put all such fantastic notions to rest for good
It’s time to get serious about learning to play by ear, and I’ve decided to drag my students along for the ride! Across the studio, no more of this wishful, generic longing to magically improve as pianists. If you’ve been living off of your imaginary dreams of pianistic prowess like me and are looking for a way to exchange cloud nine for reality, hold on to your piano benches because it’s time to kick it in high gear and move forward!