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#1272127 - 09/21/09 02:17 PM Marks of expression
mstrongpianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 38
I am presenting a workshop, in October, about teaching elementary students to observe marks of expression in their music. Besides telling a student to "play loud" or "play legato", how do you teach your students to play expressively?


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#1272169 - 09/21/09 03:33 PM Re: Marks of expression [Re: mstrongpianist]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3480
Teach them to listen carefully to what they are playing, and/or record their playing so they can hear it when played back.

Edited by rocket88 (09/21/09 03:34 PM)
Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.

#1272331 - 09/21/09 09:06 PM Re: Marks of expression [Re: rocket88]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 13324
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I agree with rocket88...hearing first, and doing as well, before naming that which they are doing is always best. Giving them a name and then explaining what it means is kind of backwards and is harder for the kids to really understand.

Also, I find the biggest roadblocks to playing dynamics or articulations well is technique and not a lack of understanding. Sometimes a student will think they are playing forte, but if it doesn't sound loud, it's not forte. They need to learn to listen to ensure it actually is forte.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#1272397 - 09/21/09 11:20 PM Re: Marks of expression [Re: Morodiene]
michiganteacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 71
Loc: Michigan, United States
I try to use creative words that help the student to connect more with the music. Instead of "louder", I might use the word "bigger sound" or "build excitement" or words that describe the technical movement such as "drop deeply into the keys...all the way to the floor". I try to get them to understand how much more interesting, beautiful, and exciting the music can be when you utilize dynamics and other expression marks. We talk about why the composer gave those directions and where he was going with it. I try to evoke as much imagination as possible instead of requesting that they simply following the directions on the page.

I think that while a lack of technique is certainly part of the problem at times, other times it is simply a lack of motivation to follow details. Once the student understands what a difference those expressive details make (often times by me demonstrating), they will be more willing to dive in and be creative and imaginative. Then the expression comes from their heart.
Jessica S.

#1272795 - 09/22/09 02:59 PM Re: Marks of expression [Re: michiganteacher]
mstrongpianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 38
Thanks all for offering your teaching tips! Keep 'em coming!

I will certainly present these ideas to the teachers at my workshop!


#1273052 - 09/22/09 09:35 PM Re: Marks of expression [Re: mstrongpianist]
heidiv Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/21/09
Posts: 580
Loc: piano bench, usually
I find imagery to be a great tool. Of course, students need to learn the correct terminology too. But I like to give them a story to go along with a piece; "This is where the dinosaur is walking," "This is where the butterfly is flying away," "This is where the kids are skipping." I find it helps the student grasp the character of the piece, and makes it fun to practice too.

#1273084 - 09/22/09 10:38 PM Re: Marks of expression [Re: heidiv]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
Great Topic.

I say to students “ If I tell you a spooky story and I say it like this. ‘I was walking down a lonely road and I heard a howl. Then I heard footsteps. Then I heard heavy breathing behind me and I turned to look at it was a Bigfoot.” (I tell the story monotone and matter of fact.) Then I say to the student “IF however, I said ‘I was walking down a lonely road and I heard a howl. (I whisper to add drama) Then I heard footsteps. (Still whispering to build suspense) Then I heard heavy breathing behind me and I turned to look at it was a (and I yell ) BIGFOOT’ Which story was more interesting?” The answer of course is the story with all the dynamics.

I explain that playing music is telling a story. We want that story to be believable. I point out the surprises in the Music (story) are the contrasted forte/piano. I also explain that the spooky part to the Bigfoot story was not that I yelled (forte) but that I whispered (piano) the majority of the story. The piano made the forte believable. Properly handling the piano is what gave the forte its impact.

I use my four year old as an example. I mimic how he whispers a story to me. For example just the other day he said “MOM, it was TERRIBLE. I put my pet grasshopper in a cup and rode my bike and dropped the cup. AND THE GRASSHOPPER GOT AWAY…..(in a whispered whimper) I tried to make him happy but he just ran away.”

I tell the students to think about what “story” the composer is trying to tell and to think about how we are going to make that story believable.
Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.

#1273135 - 09/23/09 12:30 AM Re: Marks of expression [Re: Mrs.A]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Good ideas here. Telling kids to 'yell' on the piano is much better than telling them to play louder. Whose ever heard of 'playing louder'? Children always play loudly, unless they're dressing dolls or building models.
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.


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