Using Youtube For Teaching Piano Accompaniment

By: Goran Brković Creative Commons License: CC BY-SA Author contact: @gbrkovic Author Biography: Goran Brković is a piano teacher and teacher of piano accompaniment from Europe, Serbia, Čačak. Works in a state Music School "Vojislav - Lale Stefanović", in Užice (Elementary Music School and High School of Music.) More info at http://goranovsvet.wordpress.com/ and http://goranovaklasaklavira.wordpress.com/ Activity Summary
Teacher should prepare before preforming this lesson by choosing the pieces according to student ability, grade, and program requirement, searching Youtube links for pieces students will play along with, selecting useful performances, collecting and saving the links in a document available also during lessons, other important activities: keeping tracks of what is already done, making notes and reflections about students' achievements, and allowing some time for students to read and practice the pieces at home. During the lesson every student performs warming up, without accompanying the Youtube recording, every student works on her / his own part's technically most difficult spots, or musically most complex points, one student accompanying the new / different Youtube video recording -15 minutes, the other student accompanying the new Youtube video performance -15 minutes. Class or subject area: Music, Piano, Piano Accompaniment Grade level(s): High school of music: 1st - 4th grade Specific learning objectives: • Choosing the pieces, according to student ability, grade, and program requirement • Searching Youtube links for pieces students will play along with • Selecting useful performances • Collecting and saving the links in a document available also during lessons • Other important activities: keeping tracks of what is already done, making notes and reflections about students' achievements • Allowing some time for students to read and practice the pieces at home

Introduction I've been working as a piano teacher for 21 years, and as piano accompanist for 10 years. From my personal experience, good piano accompaniment is a complex task for a pianist, especially for a piano student. Piano accompaniment involves various kinds of musical difficulties. The main difficulty is being able to watch and listen to more than our own piano part, and also being able to adapt our own playing to playing of the other musician. Accompaniment includes other difficulties. I've been given sheet music too often too late, pupils played with wrong pitch, incorrect rhythm, constantly involuntarily changing the base tempo, skipping large parts of the piece due to memory errors. Students-soloists often couldn't even give a clear sign for starting playing together at the start of the piece. Of course, the tempo at public performance has usually been different from what we practiced at rehearsal. But, despite all of these, pianist is normally expected to be able to cope with all this as being normal part of the accompanist job and skill. Pianist not being able to do all of these - is not considered a good piano accompanist. The pianist has to "catch" the soloist, whatever she / he does while still playing on a professional level, musically expressive and technically completely prepared. In Serbian Highs schools of music, we have a separate subject dedicated specifically and completely to teaching / learning piano accompaniment: Piano Accompaniment lessons. Piano accompaniment lessons are taught: • To two pupils in a group at one lesson • 35 classes per year • 45 minutes per class • One class per week • No final exam • Two obligatory public performances • Program: pieces for flute, violin or voice and piano • Main goal: to educate piano students how to play piano accompaniment well on public performances. The Main Problem In Teaching Piano Accompaniment To be able to understand the main problem in teaching it, let's first define: what is a good piano accompaniment. Good accompaniment 1. Playing together (simultaneously, compact playing, producing tone at the same moment) 2. Not covering the soloist dynamically (not being too loud) 3. Active involvement (not too soft, not being too passive, but chamber music cooperation) On a higher level: musically breathing as one player, as ensemble. Accompanist being a second sound layer, submitted to expressiveness and dynamics of the soloist, actively involved, and achieving a balance of leading and following the primary musical focus, playing as one "musical

organism . Solo piano vs. piano accompaniment While students are taught to develop musically and technically on their piano lessons with their piano teachers, they develop listening skills limited to their own playing, and listening themselves only. The goal of Piano Accompaniment Lessons is to teach them to listen and adapt to others, usually soloists on other instruments. Playing in an ensemble is, at the same time, both easier and more complex than solo piano playing. Let's divide and analyze what is more easy, and what's not. Easier: • • Psychologically, not being alone at the podium No memorization requirements, playing from the score, not by hearth, piano part may be (or may not be) simpler than the usual solo piano repertoire pieces structure.

More complexity in accompaniment: 1. Watching and listening to three or more staves, more complex thinking and listening process 2. Requires greater musical flexibility, and even more developed listening skills: • Listening to ourselves • Listening to others • Coordination of both, which means: constantly adapting to the playing of the soloist The main problem in teaching piano accompaniment is: how to achieve adaptability while teaching it the old way. The Old Way We Used To Teach It And The Problems It Involved The main problem with the old way of teaching piano accompaniment is in limited usability of such lessons. Students are learning and training one skill on the lesson, while public performance requires different set of skills. Students are missing the link between what they learned at accompaniment class and real life requirements needed during public performance. There is no preparation for the real public performance. Usually, the old fashioned class looks like this: one piano student at the lesson plays the solo part on the piano imitating the soloist, while the other plays along piano accompany part, both playing on the piano (we do not have a real solo student while learning piano accompany part). We are playing with soloist only after the piece being completely learned. By the moment of rehearsals before the public performance with the soloist playing on other instrument, piano students have already developed a habit of playing alone. They get used to their own tempo, dynamics, agogics, etc. By the moment of public performance, instead of trained accompanist, we get two soloists: one real soloist, and the piano accompanist acting like a parallel soloist, instead of collaboration, we get a musical fight for attention. No doubt It is hard for students to adapt to playing with real solo performer. This type of teaching is non-efficient. Teaching piano accompaniment the old way with both piano

students playing on the piano, and having the same instrument color, in too exact tempo, with the same moment of sound production, and no breathing pauses and agogics like when playing along with woodwinds or voice, etc. - all of these make piano students harder to adapt to real soloist. Compared to public performance - playing with a flute or a violin, the old fashioned piano accompaniment lesson is completely artificial and unreal, being too different from the real situation, while at the same time requiring little or no adaptation, no "hunting" of the soloist. But, solution exists. The New Way: How Technology Can Help Teachers And Students • Two students, two different pieces, accompanying Youtube Compared to the old way (both students learning and accompanying same piece, one imitating the soloist while the other student accompanying), the new way is more interesting, more demanding and requires more focused attention. Two students learn and accompany two different pieces and play along with several (8-20 or more) real soloist performances from Youtube. • Increased class usability Playing along with 10-20 different real soloists form Youtube videos is finally preparing the students by for the real public performance situation. In fact, they are in real life situation all the time during the lesson. We never use the same performance on two lessons. They play along every time with different performers. Of course, different soloists form Youtube posses various artistic levels of performance. This way students also learn to develop skills of listening to various and different instrument colors, catching constant small tempo variations, including breaths, and they develop adaptability to other's performer musical ideas, dynamics, etc. Piano accompany students also learn: "hunting", jumping, listening to false intonation, wrong rhythm, etc., managing all possible distortions in soloist's playing while still producing compact sound in continuous playing. This way it's much easier for piano students at public performance. New way brings increased class usability. About Using Youtube I must mention a few requirements for realization of Piano accompaniment lesson using Youtube: • PC • Broadband Internet connection • Speakers • • • You need a Windows /Mac /Linux PC with sound card and speakers output socket. Considering Internet connection: the faster, the better. First of all, your Internet connection has to be stable and usable. Speakers have to be equipped with sufficient volume power, without audible sound distortion.

Problems and solutions: • No PC/no speakers in the classroom > use laptop or portable devices with 2 pairs of

headphones, or encourage the students to do the same process at home (if possible) • No Internet connection or slow connection > download Youtube videos at home and bring to the class, (if conditions at home exist). • • • • • • Teacher's preparation for the lesson Choosing the pieces, according to student ability, grade, and program requirement Searching Youtube links for pieces your students will play along with Selecting useful performances (eliminating extremes, too fast or too slow performances, performances with too low volume level, too similar performances, wrong tonality versions, orchestra only versions, piano only versions, etc.) Collecting and saving the links in a document available also at lessons Other important activities: keeping tracks of what is already done, making notes and reflections about students' achievements (I do this at https://docs.google.com) Allowing some time for students to read and practice the pieces at home (1-2 weeks, depending on the complexity of the piece) Class Plan Lesson planing and preparation • • • •

Coordination - check with flute and violin teacher - pieces played by their students, also ideas for interpretation and advices for both soloist and accompanist Mastering various difficulty and differently structured pieces - hard and easy accompaniment pieces - motivation keeping and developing Finding informations about composer and about the piece Links to pdf music sheet, or sending pdf music sheet to students Analyzing the score, defining smaller parts / numbers, sheet printing, writing rehearsal numbers on sheet Example Of Piano Accompaniment Class, 3rd Grade High School

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Saint-Saens Romance op.37, in D flat major About Composer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns About Romance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_compositions_by_Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns Sheet Music: http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/7/77/IMSLP30974-PMLP70670-Saint-Sa__ns__Romance__Op._37__flute_and_piano_.pdf

Youtube links - 8 flutists playing Saint-Saens Romance op.37, in D flat major
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6gioeVi9f4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg3RMuyLFy0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNusStMhI50 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci-jBYNlpP4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEMRxrV4Ff8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKCcZGbe7Qs&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej3mr4LHjeA&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su2UdsMK1lE&feature=related

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Rachmaninoff Vocalise op.34 No.14, in G minor About Composer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Rachmaninoff About Vocalise: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocalise_(Rachmaninoff) Sheet Music: http://www.scorage.ru/view.aspx?id=844C7303DC16CB116838E196B7AF17F2 Youtube links - 8 flautists playing Rachmaninoff Vocalise op.34 No.14, in G minor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxXS-8NfjNU&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_Ha_uRF-84 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVurqiFHBxQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvpBUitKbsQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAvkcUuUpLo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJtbeAC_PQ8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fVAthVOx2M http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2xZICRj9qY&feature=related

Lesson Timing Lesson duration: 45 minutes, 1 lesson per week Lesson organization: 3 x 1 5 minutes 1. Warming up -15 minutes 2. One student accompanying the new / different recording -15 minutes 3. The other student accompanying the new / different recording -15 minutes In details 1. Every student performs warming up, without accompanying the Youtube recording, every student works on her/ his own part's technically most difficult spots, or musically most complex points 2. One student accompanying the new / different Youtube video recording -15 minutes • Integral performance, accompanying Saint-Saens Romance • Focus on parts needing more attention, without Youtube, off-line • Most difficult parts, middle section, harmonies played in chords, finding harmonic logic, playing again with Youtube recording • Find and note points in the score particularly interesting considering agogics • Make synthesis of the whole piece again at the end • Homework: accompanying the Youtube recording while playing left hand only, paying attention to being simultaneous on harmony changes 3. The other student accompanying the new Youtube video performance -15 minutes • Integral performance, accompanying Rachmaninoff Vocalise • Without Youtube recording, practice without repeated intervals / chords, only the changes of the harmonies, finding the basis of the structure, producing "invisible" repeats, showing finger pedal, obtaining clear pedaling • Playing middle section only, in slower tempo, find and note points in the score particularly interesting considering agogics • Make synthesis of the whole piece again at the end • Homework: practice hands separate with Youtube video, with / without repeats

How To Use Youtube In Piano Accompaniment Class And Its Benefits Activities on the class • Analyzing of the score: identifying tonalities, the global form, dividing into parts for practicing, analyzing of the harmonies, finding and solving difficult points • Learning the solo part One of activities I encourage students to practice at an early stage of learning the accompaniment is: learning the part of the soloist. Knowing the solo part provides accompanist more confidence. The student knowing the solo part can listen the soloist better and in case of trouble, she / he can jump onto the right place in the score - in case of memory errors of the soloist. • Sight reading is another activity - always beneficial. Being more skilled at sight reading means taking less time to learn new pieces. • Inventing exercises for making difficult parts more easy In order to solve most difficult spots, I try to find new ways of simplifying the technical problem or organizing the process of musical thinking. This includes inventing various exercises consisted of rearranging the music structure into chords, positions, sequences or using theoretical knowledge to find and observe figurations, repeated thematic material, etc. • Transposing piano part: developing musical intelligence is highly empowered by transposing. We start with short and easy examples, gradually increasing the difficulty • Other activities you can practice on classes are making arrangements: simultaneous playing of the whole score - including the solo part, simultaneously. • Playing the left hand and solo part • Switching: right hand part played by the left hand + solo part played by the right hand • Creating different orchestral arrangements in Concertos for a Solo instrument and Orchestra. Benefits of this type of teaching piano accompaniment are many: more efficient teaching, more interesting, practicing real life public performance 100% of the class time. This way the teaching solves the main problem in teaching piano accompaniment. Additional Info For teaching Piano accompaniment, I use Linux. It's completely free, fast, stable, with hundreds of excellent free multimedia applications. I use Ubuntu (www.ubuntu.com) at home, for lesson preparation, and Puppy Linux at school, for lesson realization (http://puppylinux.org) I also use Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net) for recording student's progress. You can use podcasts at lessons, like shown in presentation by Maja Dakić-Brković (http://www.slideshare.net/kakoto/maja-teach-meet-podcast-in-piano-lessons ). Among other additional applications, I use Rosegarden to analyze or explain some most complex part of the score by notating it layer by layer (http://www.slideshare.net/gbrkovic/rosegarden-notation).

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