So do all music teachers do this or what?

“I just got a new transfer student who spent X months/years with another teacher, and I’ve never seen anything so screwed up before in my life!

“Their bow hold was completely dysfunctional! I can’t even imagine what I can do with them!”

“Look at he holds his wrists when playing the piano! There’s so much wrong here I don’t even know where to start!”

“I showed her music and asked him what the clefs meant, and she actually said that the top one was supposed to be played by the right hand! Oh my GOD! How stupid can one six year old be?!”

“He was holding his violin straight out to the side! Who plays like that?

“I asked her to improvise a short piece, and she looked at me like she didn’t even know what I was talking about! What kind of ruined, worthless musicians are all other music teachers turning out! She’s already nine years old!

Holy fucking SHIT, people. No, your students are not totally ruined, every other teacher in the world is not an incompetent idiot, and if you are throwing single-digit kids on the scrap heap for having slightly too-flat wrists or not giving you a ten-page thesis on The History and Purpose of the Bass Clef, you are seriously too caffeinated. Calm the fuck down.

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The piano pedals — a wee guide

Here’s a brief definition list for the curious:

  1. The damper or sustain pedal: Lifts the dampers from the wires and allows the sound to sustain until it is released again.
  2. The sostenuto pedal: Lifts the dampers from the wires of the keys that are down at the time, allowing for some special effects.
  3. The una corda pedal: Lifts the eyebrows of the listener in direct proportion to their opinion of themselves, and allows them to completely discount your playing.

It is vitally important to never, ever use the una corda pedal. Ever. It’s not really meant to be used. It’s a trick pedal. It’s there to trap and subsequently “weed out” players who are undeserving of the precious and priceless admiration of those who fancy themselves piano experts. If you absolutely must use it, please be sure to present a research thesis of no fewer than 350 pages to support your contention that you can’t plausibly avoid using it.

Well … unless you are actually willing to entertain the idea that a control lever that has been placed on a device is actually meant to be used from time to time, clearly a dangerously uncontrolled notion held only by reprobates who have no business going anywhere near a piano.

I don’t suppose this needs a sarcasm alert. For fuck’s sake, it’s right on the front of the piano. If you want that nice fogbound sound it can impart, then use it.

“But what I’m saaaaaaaying is that you shouldn’t use it if y–”

Oh, shut the hell up.

“Transposing instruments”

What the hell is up with that, anyway? Whose bright idea was it to say, “Hey, you hear that note you’re playing there? It’s a C! Well, not really. But we’ll call it a C. We also spell the word “word” as “umpb” because we felt like backing up the entire alphabet by two letters. Still pronounced the same, though! Why is your eyelid twitching like that?”

Seriously. Who the hell’s bright idea was that? If the music says C, I want to hear a flippin C.

However, at least it explains why Scott Joplin wrote seven billion pieces of music in Bb. It never made sense to me, especially on an instrument that cares so little about key; even for the white-keys-are-C-Major piano, there really is very little difference in difficulty between different key signatures on a piano. (In fact, C Major is probably one of the less hand-friendly ones since you are scooted all the way down onto the bottom half of the keyboard. Most of the hand-friendlier key signatures have a black-white-black or white-black-white home chord at their base. I’ll take EbM or Fm over CM any day.) I pretty much compose in any key that I start playing in, which makes my choices of key signature somewhat random — yet Joplin could beeline his way to and from Bb like a homing pigeon.

And according to the biography that I read, he was hand in glove with brass bands. He probably felt at home in that key and was pleased to make his work easier to adapt for his colleagues in brass ensembles.

It actually makes one consider the structure of his pieces somewhat differently, almost as if the Bb themes in his pieces were sort of meant to be accompanied by a brass band, and the areas where he wandered off to other keys were supposed to be almost solo piano bits — almost as if the pieces have a sort of concerto form where the piano can be backed up by a brass “orchestra” in the Bb themes, and then wander off on its own. It would be interesting and fun to see if arrangements couldn’t be done with this idea in mind.

Anyhow, this “transposing” crap is nuts. See a C, play a C, damn it.