Dr Joanne Chai On The Four Myths Of Piano Learning And How They Are Destroying China’s Little Piano Kids

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It’s almost time for piano students to take their exams in August, and according to pianist Qiongyan Chai, most of them are learning the piano with the mindset that they need to pass their exams as soon as possible.

What’s the problem with the “needing a grade” approach to piano practice?

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QiongYan Chai discussed the major misconceptions: first, utilitarian progress will cause the children to lose time and opportunities to understand music; the practice style that does not pay attention to posture may cause great harm to the children physically; and, finally, the rigid practice style may cause the strange phenomenon that children who have reached piano grade 10 cannot read music and do not know music theory.

Dr. Based on her own experience, Chai Qiongyan also made some helpful suggestions for piano students.

Qiongyan Chai, a young pianist

With their delicate emotions and high skills, an increasing number of Chinese pianists are emerging on the international music scene.

More and more parents are allowing their children to learn the piano in the hopes that they will be like those famous pianists who, while not necessarily having a high musical level, have a certain musical cultivation.

But are so many hard-working piano students getting a good piano education? Is their fingering correct? Have they improved their musicianship? Are they learning music or just doing it for the exams?

According to pianist Dr. Jenny Q Chai, students who are desperate for a grade account for a sizable proportion of the student body.

Qiong-Yan Chai, hailed by the New York Times as a “brilliant, fearless young pianist,” is not only the winner of the Keys to the Future International Contemporary Piano Competition 2011 by YvarMikhashoff Pianist/Composer, but also the winner of the 2010 German Government He is also the winner of the 2010 DAAD International Prize for Academic Exchange in Music and Art.

Dr. Chai has been a “piano child” since he was three years old, when he began studying with his mother. She was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music, a genius conservatory, at the age of 13, and then began to help her mother teach piano to her students during the summers back in China, and she has been in contact with Chinese children for 18 years.

Dr. In a recent interview, Qiongyan Chai enumerated several myths about Chinese piano children.

Learning to play the piano is useful, but it is difficult to help them grow up.

“After contacting many students and parents, I discovered that there are many misconceptions, one of which is to turn the number of grades into the standard for measuring students’ piano level,” Chai Qiongyan told the reporter.

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There are many reasons why parents use this as a measure, one of which is that many teachers claim how quickly the grade is and how many years it takes to get a piano grade, leading non-professional parents to believe that the grade is the highest level of piano. In fact, from a professional standpoint, the level of the examinations is not particularly high.

This is not to say that the examinations are without merit; after all, the judges are highly qualified teachers; however, “the more professional the judges are, the more they understand the hard work of the students, and sometimes they will let students who barely meet the requirements of the grade pass, giving them credit for their hard work.”

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What is not expected is for these students to take more difficult exams like Level 9 and Level 10 in their first year. “You know, getting to the previous level is already a bit of a struggle, and going to school further will only add to the burden,” explained Dr. When discussing the children who took the exam, Chai wears a helpless expression.

Parents must understand that music is dependent on the child’s long-term perception practice, which should not be used to constantly test the level, pulling up the seedlings to help grow the most undesirable.

Inability to master proper posture causes harm to the body.

An excessive emphasis on examinations can have a cascading effect, such as aggressive learning methods and teachers who are only concerned with students finishing the piece without regard for posture, power methods, and fingering correctness, which eventually takes a toll on the student’s body.

“I had many students who, prior to coming to my music school, many of them had physical problems due to the wrong approach as well as being too aggressive, playing the piano until they developed tendinitis, spinal problems, and some even ended up not being able to hold a cup,” Dr. Chai explained to the reporter

This is especially serious for children who are exceptionally gifted. Because the student is gifted, his piano teacher accelerates his exams so that the child is constantly practicing, pounding out Grade 9 and Grade 10 repertoire for the exam.

The teacher is only concerned with the grade and does not teach relaxation or proper playing technique, preferring to play fast and loud. As one might expect, their wrists will become inflamed, forcing them to discontinue piano lessons and even disrupt their daily lives.

It’s not just the hands that are an issue; playing the piano is a full-body activity that necessitates proper sitting and placement of the hands and feet. “Many teachers do not teach posture, and I see many students who have no center of gravity, with their upper body curled up and completely stiff.”

This is not an alarmist statement; there are many children with physical disabilities.

Dr. Chai mentioned that she had a 19-year-old boy named Paul as a student. Paul, who was very talented and passionate about music, had already completed grade 10 in piano by the time she met him.

Unfortunately, Paul’s previous training had been entirely geared toward the exam and lacked proper and sound training, such as posture correction, gesture correction, and so on. His back muscles were so stiff as a result that it didn’t take long for him to sit up straight and play the piano.

The doctor then advised him to wear a “back brace” while playing the piano. Paul was admitted to a prestigious music school in the United States after correcting and mastering the correct posture and receiving a half-award scholarship.

Paul had finally been “saved.” However, not all students are so fortunate. Dr. Chai once met a female student who had repeated wrist inflammation as a result of a long period of practicing in the incorrect position, and who eventually lost interest in the piano.

The practice repertoire is rigid and deceptive.

What method does the current exam teacher use to teach piano? Dr. “Generally speaking, teachers who emphasize the examination grade will only practice two examination grade pieces in half a year, repeatedly, and will not change at all,” Chai told the reporter.

Such practice will also result in the following situation: many students cannot read music at all, and the pieces they can play are completely memorized, with the teacher playing the lines and the student playing the lines.

After six months of passing the grade 10 exam, children who learn to play the piano in this manner may not even be able to play the pieces in the grade. “Because they are unable to read music at all.” I’ve met students who have completed grade 10 but are still sluggish when it comes to reading music. Some students in grades 6 and 7 don’t know the score at all, point by point.”

Students who do not know the score by heart will be unable to play if asked to play from two-handed to break up. “It can be said that they previously played the tune entirely by mechanical body memory, and that once they play with one hand, they can’t finish it.” Such students will not advance very far. Very erroneous.”

So, what is the proper approach?

Dr.’s recommendation Chai is: update the tune’s difficulty every week or every two weeks. Students learn more pieces to improve their technique and gain a better understanding of the composer’s style.

In addition to the exam repertoire, students should carefully practice the exercises, which include a variety of fingering exercises. Chinese students, for example, are more likely to practice the pianist Hanon’s and Chelny’s series of exercises.

Dr. Chai also suggests that you practice the Chelny rather than abandoning Kramer’s “Collection of Exercises,” which is required to practice relaxation and the use of various wrist-arm combinations.

When practicing, students can set their own paces based on their skill level, and those who are gifted can go relatively quickly or skip some familiar technique exercises.

There is no music theory, only superficial feelings.

Dr. Chai also mentioned another common Chinese issue. It is the “belief that fast and loud are the only criteria for good technique,” which she describes as “extremely superficial.” Although some students can play very quickly, their tone has many flaws.

The piano is unlike anything else in that every key stroke can affect the tone that comes out of it, necessitating a high level of control.

“The standard of really good music, like singing, should be a combination of tone and melody as well as understanding of the repertoire,” Dr. Using an analogy, Chai stated

This means that learning the piano should include not only playing the melody, but also adding your own understanding. As a result, studying music theory is extremely important.

Music theory is literally the reasoning behind music. However, many Chinese students and teachers mistake it for “sight singing and ear training,” but it is much more than that. Music theory encompasses a wide range of topics, such as music literature, piano literature, and the stylistic characteristics of each musical era.

After you’ve mastered music theory, you’ll be able to create music with soul by incorporating your own emotions. “Like many other styles, piano impressionism is and impressionist paintings are completely combined, the pianist will play out the feeling of French impressionism; while the Baroque style can be played very delicately, with a sense of line, from the music can feel the obvious color contrast.”

All of this is done by one’s own hands after understanding the background of the music, the composer’s style, the style of the time, and so on,” Dr. Chai elaborated.

As a result, learning music or practicing the piano should be a very balanced process, with a balanced development of emotional-technical as well as basic knowledge based on one’s own unique situation.

Qiongyan Chai’s conversation

“Children who play the piano can try to learn vocal music and composition at the same time.”

Q: Could you please tell us about your personal experience first?

A: I began playing the piano when I was three years old and enrolled in the Shanghai Conservatory of Music when I was seven.

I enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in the United States when I was 13 years old, making me the school’s youngest Chinese student. At the time, I was the youngest Chinese student. China accepted two students that year, one of whom was me, and the other was Lang Lang, who was two years my senior.

Following my undergraduate studies, I was awarded a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music. I completed my master’s and doctoral degrees there. After that, I returned to Shanghai and established the Fissler Music Academy, hoping to bring some of the best educational methods from around the world to China.

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Q: Did you notice a significant difference in the way you were taught when you first came to the United States at the age of 13?

A: The difference is significant, but I think it’s very good.

When I was studying in China, I was not exposed to music theory at all, and it wasn’t until I arrived at Curtis that I realized that all music schools in the United States were the same. Instead of playing the piano without knowing how to read music, study music theory and play at the same time.

A little bit more, American education is very focused on students’ individual development.

I am a product of the Chinese education system, and I was gifted as a student. However, Chinese teachers in general are not very good at developing and nurturing students’ individuality, nor do they encourage students to seek individuality on their own.

Following my arrival in the United States, I was fortunate to be taught by Professor Seymour Lipkin, a direct disciple of Beethoven and Chopin and a highly accomplished musician.

During the lessons, he would occasionally discuss the composer’s life, or the symphonic operas he composed, or books written by composers and critics, and so on. This will assist you in better understanding the styles of various works and interpreting the music. Most Chinese teachers may only teach the tonal intensity.

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Q: You mentioned that you have previously taught Chinese students, but do you have any experience with foreign students?

A: I have taught American children ranging in age from a few years to a few years.

In general, I teach them basic music theory as well as piano.

During the teaching process, I noticed that American students are more active, have a strong personality, and have a positive attitude toward learning. Furthermore, once they have mastered a skill, many American children attempt to improvise or compose on their own. This is most likely due to the fact that American parents are less likely to require their children to learn something, so the children I meet are more interested in music and thus take more initiative.

However, I have seen many Chinese children who are not musical, and it is possible that some of them are forced to learn by their parents. Parents should let their children choose what they want to learn; if they don’t like music, forcing them to learn is counterproductive.

Q: Have you studied any other instruments, and do you think it’s better for children who practice piano to learn other music programs?

A: When I was at Curtis, I took voice lessons.

Because vocal music is the most basic form of vocalization, your own body serves as the instrument. Rubinstein, the pianist, once said that if you can’t sing, you’ll never be a good pianist.

From personal experience, I believe that today’s piano students can also learn vocal music. It does not have to be a rigorous study, but learning to exhale and sing well is beneficial.

Following that, I studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music. Composition is also important for increasing student initiative.

In fact, many students do not learn well because they do not recognize the tones, but once they begin composing, they immediately recognize the tones. And, after composing, he would perform his “masterpiece,” which immediately increased the desire to learn.