PPP078: How to Learn Music You Don’t Really Like

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This week is one that I look forward to every year. It is the week where I rehearse with local band students as they prepare for UIL Solo & Ensemble Contest.

I love meeting the students and seeing them hesitant to play our music together at first. Later in the week, we are more familiar with each other and are able to follow musical cues better. Finally, when we meet with the judge, I hope to be a source of support and confidence for them so they are able to perform their very best. It is exhilarating!

However, along with the excitement comes the responsibility of learning pieces that might not fit my normal tastes and interests. I have to learn to play music that I might not like or at least don’t like until I get to know it more.

I like to give my students a choice

One thing I like about Piano Adventures, the piano curriculum that I use is the variety of music in every unit in the lesson books. I often have a specific piece that I call a “for sure” piece, meaning they need to make sure they practice that piece. They are free to choose one or two of the other pieces to learn as they match their personal preferences.

Sometimes we must learn music that we might not choose on our own

I have a student preparing for the UT Tyler Piano Skills Festival. She is learning two pieces that fit in the required range for her division. They may not be pieces she would have chosen to play for her own enjoyment but they are pieces she needs to learn for the festival. We’ve got to find a way to connect to these pieces when there isn’t an intrinsic, immediate connection already.

Later this spring, several students will be preparing for the Texas Music Teachers Association Convention Ensemble Teams. The piece for each ensemble is chosen by the director. Though the director certainly aims to select music the students will enjoy, there is no guarantee that every student will love that piece at first play-through.

How Can You Connect with a Piece You Don’t Like?

To learn How to Approach a New Piece of Music, listen to Episode 008.

Study the music away from the piano – before you play, take a good look at the score. Notice repeats, accidentals, key signature changes, time signature changes, etc. Make note of any possible pitfalls that might slow down your ability to perform the piece well.

Give the music a slow play-through – slowly play the music. You could play one hand at a time or one line at a time. Slowly and carefully start acquainting your hands with the musical notation.

Listen to the music – YouTube is a valuable resource for listening to performances of many (not all) of the pieces your student is learning. If they are playing the music correctly, listening gives them assurance that they are on the right track. Listening also helps them hear nuances of the music that their eyes might miss. Be an active listener – follow along with the music as you listen. This teaches your piano kid to be a more discerning listener. They learn to see expression and articulation marks in the music and listen for them in the performance.

Discover the History of the Piece or the Composer – learning the “back story” can often help your child make a personal connection with the piece they are studying. (I love the backstories of the songs I researched in Episode 072) Once they make a personal connection, studying the music becomes less of a chore.

This is the Spanish Dance, No. 5 I learned in high school and that I mentioned in the podcast. This recording is from a piano roll of Grandos playing his own piece!!

This is an interesting article that confirms what I remembered from my research about how Enrique Granados died.

You piano kid might be interested in browsing this website by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to learn more about composers.

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the following new subscribers to the Piano Parent Podcast website: Amy, Marcia, and Jo.

Shout out to Beth, a fellow piano teacher from Texas who listens as she travels to her students’ homes. Hey Beth!!

Thank you for the encouraging review on iTunes from a listener in Australia, jj551: “This is the best podcast for parents and music teachers alike. Lots of interesting interviews and information. Thanks, Shelly!”

Finally – exactly how many times can one person say “connect” or “connection” in a single podcast episode?!? My goodness!



Hey there and welcome!

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