Lynne Phillips

Cardiff Piano & Music Theory Teacher

Homepage: https://properpianofingers.wordpress.com

Krebs – Allegro (A:3) ABRSM Grade 6 ‘…in bits…’

This YouTube video is the second in my ‘…in bits…’ series, a  collection of tutorials where I follow the completed piece with hands separate videos, voice separate, slow, with and without ornamentation, whatever I think could prove useful.

With pieces such as the Krebs, it is invaluable to not just go straight in with the ornaments, but to learn the music without any decoration as if that version were a piece in its own right; i.e., the musical equivalent of being able to see the woods despite the trees.  I don’t teach this technique because ornaments are scary (they’re not), or because they are difficult (again, they’re really not!), but because they are only ornamentation, and unless a musician can understand the main body of the music in its plainest form, they have no chance of understanding it with added fiddly bits.

What I missed on this collection, and I regret not adding in, was an even more stripped back version which my students have been learning.  The Krebs, indeed all music, can be stripped back to basic harmony or simple melodic lines, and it is incredibly useful to learn this unornamented version, rather than just obvious one we read on the page.  I might add this in later; it’s certainly been fascinating for me to see how my students have been stripping this piece back in different ways to me and to each other.

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Repertoire Project: Khachaturian – Etude (from Pictures of Childhood)

This is the first in my ‘…in bits…’ series; a collection of videos designed to be partly tutorial in style, with a full video recording followed by multiple recordings of hands separate, slow tempo, voice separate, or anything else which I think would be useful in learning each individual piece of music.

Khachaturian’s Etude is a complex piece; it appears fast and unrelenting, and yet it is delicate and needs a surprising amount of space to breathe.  The difference in articulation between the tenuto right hand and the staccato left is technically demanding, especially for the intermediate pianist that this piece is aimed at, there needs to be careful listening skills and awareness of physical keyboard touch taking place to ensure each voice remains faithful to its line when putting hands together.

This etude is a personal favourite of mine; not just because it is great fun to play (seriously, it really is!), but because it is is so peculiarly gentle inside its world of deceptive freneticism.

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Repertoire Project Upload No.7

This upload of J.S.Bach’s Invention No.1 in C (BWV 7720 is a little different.  In addition to uploading the finished soundcloud recording, I have uploaded a video to my YouTube channel, where students can see how to ‘build’ the invention from scratch, (starting with no ornaments and hands separately) into the final performance.

As with all my recordings, it’s really important to understand that these are not meant to be definitive versions, but are more like a tool; something to kick start a student into getting to grips with a musical narrative, or more accurately, one version of a musical narrative.  

With the Bach, however, this is perhaps even more important.  Bach wrote for harpsichord, not piano.  My dynamics and my articulation are my own, and are just an idea to draw on or listen to. In fact, to be totally honest, I’ve been playing this particular Invention for many years, and I think I play it with as many different interpretations as years I have been teaching it.  This recording is particularly legato; I’m not convinced I like this (in fact the more I listen to it, the more I dislike the final version) but it’s what I was working on at the time, and so in the spirit of spontaneity, it’s what I have recorded.

Please do not copy this recording, or indeed any of my Repertoire Project recordings.  Listen to them, enjoy them, use them for ideas, love them, hate them, do whatever you like, but remember that part of being a musician is being creative; we were never meant to be mimics.  There’s far too much interesting music to make to spend valuable time just copy and pasting.

For more details about my teaching practice, including prices, vacancies, and information on distance theory marking, or learning piano as a beginner, intermediate, or a post-grade 8 student, please go to lynnephillipspiano.moonfruit.com

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IPPG Charity Student Concert for Nepal

Due to the recent earthquakes in Nepal, my 2015 collaborative local community and RWCMD Junior Conservatoire student concert will have a charitable focus.    One of my adult learners, Dr. Emma Mason, is a trustee of the International Porter Protection Group, (www.ippg.net).  The IPPG is a small charity which is working closely with a number of other charities in Nepal (Community Action Nepal and Porters Progress UK) to provide not just emergency aid to the remote, mountainous areas in which they operate, but also to continue with their long term projects providing medical equipment and personnel and other support to the local communities.

Milly Earthquake

My private and Young RWCMD students all work very hard throughout the year, and this concert is an opportunity for them to perform in front of a small audience, and to raise some much needed funds for the Nepal disaster.  Performance time and seating space permitting, I have also asked other piano teachers if any of their students would like to join us to make this event as successful as possible.

I am charging a very small entrance fee (£2.50 each) to students and their friends and family, which could raise as much as £500, but IPPG desperately need as many donations as possible during this extremely difficult time.  You can donate to them online via http://www.ippg.net or by cheque made out to the International Porter Protection Group.  Please give as much or as little as you can; every penny helps.

I am extremely grateful to Cardiff University School of Music, who have very kindly donated the use of their state of the art concert hall in Corbett Road for the occasion, and are also paying to staff the building with their very friendly and helpful security and portering staff.   The University Concert Hall seats 200 and houses two concert grand pianos (a Steinway and a Bösendorfer), one of which will be used for the concert.

Although this is a fundraising concert, due to the amount of children taking part (some of whom are nervous about performing) the concert itself is a closed event. This means that tickets are not available to the general public.  The students are all aware, however, of the effect that their hard work and musical achievements are having on the appeal for funds, and Drs. Emma and Nick Mason, both of whom are trustees of IPPG, will be present at the concert, along with their daughter Milly (pictured above) who will hopefully be performing.

Also in aid of these three charities is the Kendal Mountain Film Festival, which is held at the New Theatre in Cardiff on Friday 10th July.  Please buy tickets and come along!

Kendal Film Festival

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/kendal-mountain-film-festival/

Thank you for all your support,

Lynne and students

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Stop That Mucking About!

I had a conversation with a parent a few weeks ago; she was telling me that when her son plays around on the piano and makes up his own stuff, she tells him to stop it and get back to his ‘proper practicing’.   My answer? “But that ‘mucking about’ is creativity!”  That ‘playing around’, that ‘wasting time’ was this young student discovering sound colours, learning his way about the keyboard, developing confidence in his improvisatory skills, making fledgling compositions, and generally connecting with the piano.  And it’s absolutely vital that young musicians are given the space to do this.

My daughter, who is helping me out with The Repertoire Project by learning the second parts to some of the Introductory level duet repertoire, started ‘mucking about’ today whilst we were practising together.  She developed a melody after hearing a short snippet of a duet that I suggested (which we never got around to practising, but who cares, the tangent was even better).  I joined in with an accompaniment, and after ten minutes of a mixture of improvisation and composition, we came up with this…

Creative, enjoyable, musical, collaborative, experimental, and like so much music, beautifully fleeting.  But worthless? Absolutely not.

For more details about my teaching practice, including prices, vacancies, and information on distance theory marking, or learning piano as a beginner, intermediate, or a post-grade 8 student, please go to lynnephillipspiano.moonfruit.com

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The Repertoire Project

The idea for The Repertoire Project came from thinking about how to engage and inspire students to learn music which does not lead to grade exams.  I write, and talk, a lot about learning repertoire and skills, and developing as a musician, but it can be surprisingly difficult for young pianists to find repertoire that they want to learn without spending hours and hours trawling unsuccessfully through youtube, and often giving up in the process.  Of course, I play music for my students in lessons, but there’s only so much repertoire I can play in a half hour lesson, before the ‘lesson’ becomes a series of ‘concerts’.  A waste of money? No, absolutely not, but I do think there is more effective way for students to listen to more music, and get more inspired, without spending more lesson time listening to only the books that they have, or I can find at the time.

And so The Repertoire Project was born.

I shall leave the rest of this post in the capable hands of the blurb I have posted with every Repertoire Project track and playlist:

Welcome to The Repertoire Project – a large selection of repertoire across a range of genres to inspire students to broaden their depth of musical understanding and their enjoyment of the piano by learning multiple new pieces.

Each piece in the Repertoire Project which I have recorded at my home studio is included in two playlists:

1) With other pieces of a similar playing standard (Introductory, Beginner, Intermediate I, Intermediate II, and Advanced)

2) With other pieces in the same book or volume.

I have also included selected repertoire from other soundcloud accounts into the ‘level’ playlists. I have only included music which have freely available scores (either as paid for downloads or in print). These additional tracks are by contemporary composers, and many of the scores can be purchased individually for very little cost. If you would like details on purchasing, please contact the soundcloud account holder directly, or email me on lynnejphillips@gmail.com and I will find these details for you.

You can find The Repertoire Project and each of the different playlists at my soundcloud account here

For more details about my teaching practice, including prices, vacancies, and information on distance theory marking, or learning piano as a beginner, intermediate, or a post-grade 8 student, please go to lynnephillipspiano.moonfruit.com

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Practising on a Budget

It’s that time of year again.  Exams.  I’m sure I’m not the only piano teacher in the country seeing a sudden dearth in practice time in students who are in their final years of GCSE, AS, and A-levels.  But is there any need for practising to tail off in the way that it usually does?  In previous years, I have accepted the usual cries of, ‘I haven’t had time to practice!’ without question, but this year, I’m starting to think that there may be a way around this. So let’s start at the beginning; let’s assume that students in these critical school years genuinely do not have time to sit down for their usual practise sessions, which, depending on their playing level, will range from 15 minutes to over an hour.  But is that any reason to stop altogether? Mentally and emotionally, it can seem so.  After all, in can seem to students (indeed, this goes for most of us, I think) that they have already failed when they can’t spare enough time to do a ‘proper’ job. But what if that is a myth? What if a student  can  manage something really quite substantial in a much smaller amount of time? Take the example of an A-level student studying post-grade 8 repertoire.  Ideally, students at this level should be practising for an hour or more every day.  But that’s simply not going to happen at the moment, and any attempt to try is going to end in an awful sense of failure.  So what are the alternatives? Micro-practices! Micro-practices are ten to fifteen minute bursts of practising, as many or as few as are achievable, each one with a different goal in mind.  Here are some examples:

  1. Major, harmonic minor, and / or melodic minor scales, 1 octave only
  2. Single page of piece A, left hand only, concentrating on pedal
  3. Half a new page of piece A, working out new notation etc.
  4. Slow and steady practice of half a page of piece B
  5. First two pages of piece A, working on right hand alone, phrasing and projection
  6. Major and / or minor arpeggios, root position, two octaves
  7. Listening to both pieces on youtube, following with score
  8. Run through and individual section practise of single page of piece A
  9. Run through and individual section practice of single page of piece B
  10. Rhythmic improvisation of piece B, single page
  11. Try to figure out harmonic base / progression of piece A, single page
  12. Work on dynamics whilst only playing left hand accompaniment, piece A
  13. Double check consistency of fingering throughout, piece B

None of these are not achievable in short bursts, and looking carefully at them, they are really only one normal length practise split up into its individual components.  And with students playing at more elementary levels, these micro practices can be tailored for very short time periods (as little as three or four minutes each for beginners), with each goal worked out to roughly comprise of an individual component of the ‘usual’ longer practice session. And who knows, with achievable micro-practises to hand, busy and stressed out students might even manage to find that getting away from the pressures and strains of revision and coursework deadlines helps them to relax and cope better with their exam workload.

For more details about my teaching practice, including prices, vacancies, and information on distance theory marking, or learning piano as a beginner, intermediate, or a post-grade 8 student, please go to lynnephillipspiano.moonfruit.com

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