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Amazing Piano Workshop

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

I attended an aMaZiNG workshop at Tom Lee Music (our local music store) a few weeks ago. Workshops are inspiring but this one was over the top. Partially because it was given by Randal Faber and partially because I showed up half and hour early (unusual for me) and had a 20 minute one-on-one chat with Randal Faber!!

I have always been impressed with the Piano Adventure Series and as I talked with him he quickly put me at ease so I could get past his ‘STaR’ status and begin to absorb his wholistic view of teaching, performing, and learning at the piano. Yes, learning... he is a life student of music.

Here are 8 highlights from the Randal Faber workshop and our one-on-one chat.

  1. We are all life-long learners. The BeST teachers are ones that aren’t afraid to learn new things. This resonated with my long transition from classically trained teacher to Piano Chord teacher. The process was (and is) exhilarating, agonizing, jaw-dropping, FRuSTRaTing, full of should-of’s and wonderful Ah-Ha moments! Learning is a JouRNeY. Teaching classical and jazz/pop has been enhanced by looking at classical music through the eyes of jazz chords. They are not mutually exclusive.

  2. How can we become a better teacher? Save some time in our busy life for us. Have you heard that before? Half an hour twice a week is a great start. In this modern day you can sit at your own piano and be taught by the best! Randal Faber, Lang Lang, Tim Topham, Jackie Parker, Forrest Kinney, Sviatoslav Richter, Yo Yo Ma, Barbara Lister-Sink, Chick Correa... the list is endless. They all have YouTubes that teach music at the highest level. Pick one that touches your WoW button and get inspired.

  3. Did you know that the Faber’s have a fabulous new website where you can WaTCH them teach piano? Watch Nancy in action. WOW! (No, I’m not getting paid for this, I’m just a fan). We saw a sample of the videos at the workshop. Some are free and some you need to register for but it looks like a great resource that I’m checking out. Here’s the link

  4. Randal dug deep into life at one point. (Should I be calling him Randal or Mr. Faber?) He asked “Why do we have music?” (If you have time, re-read that question and formulate your own answer before continuing to read his). Go back in time to JS Bach and music existed to communicate with the heavens. Let’s go back further in time to Pythagoras and Plato and their trinity Math - Philosophy - Music. Plato’s famous quote “ I would teach children music, physics and philosophy but most importantly music, for the patterns in music, are the key to learning.” Hmmm... must think about that on my next walk. But I digress. My take-away from this was that music is not a reflection of the latest boy/girl breakup but a portal to learning and enriching our lives. Singing nursery rhymes for language, chanting songs on holidays for culture, reciting multiplication tables to song and rhythm. Music helps us LeaRN. It is not for our own ego, it takes us to a higher state. What could be more powerful? Maybe those breaking-up songs that fill up the iTunes store help us realize we are not alone so we can move on and learn more about life :-)

  5. ACE - Analyze Create Express. As a university student in the 70s I received lots of Analysis and Expressive guidance, but little or no CReaTiNG guidance. Creating gives us so much information. For example when I teach a piece like Fur Elise I start with a lead sheet so students can figure out their own chord voicings. Then, when I show them how Beethoven voiced it, they really appreciate his genius. I think I need to make a YouTube about this. Stay tuned...

  6. Engage your student emotionally in the lesson. When they ‘buy-in’ you have their attention! The Faber's show this beautifully on one of their lesson videos. I like to find out what my students love to do when they are not playing the piano. Soccer, sewing, drawing... etc and then teach them piano using their experiences. - Striking a note on a piano is like kicking a soccer ball it’s all about timing and release - When you sew you have a pattern, when you compose music you have a pattern - Different keys are like different colours of yellow when you are drawing a sunset That kind of thing.

  7. Re-distribution- taking the tangles out of Clair de Lune and other higher level pieces. As long as you get the sound the composer intended, it’s OK to move things around a bit. Tiny Alicia de Larrocha did it all the time. In one of her radio interviews she says she loves the radio because people cannot see (and judge) all the changes she makes.

And finally 8. This was one of the coolest take-aways... Instead of Practice makes Perfect, or Practice Makes Permanent Randal Faber shared the latest neuroscience ... Practice Creates Myelin. Myelination is a term in anatomy that is defined as the process of forming a myelin sheath around a nerve to allow nerve impulses to move more quickly. When we practice a section of music we create myelin (more myelin = more muscle memory). Whatever we repeat (right or wrong) our bodies will start coating those muscles with myelin. This is amazing stuff! If you would like a poster for your studio click here.

There it is and it's a lot of info to take in at once.

Challenge: Why not implement one of his amazing ideas this week?

As always please share your thoughts and tips in the comments :-)

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