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Blog posts tagged with 'Scales'

Everyone Hates Singing

Everyone Hates Singing

 

Unless it’s in the shower or with their favourite CD – that’s different.

There’s loads of studies available to tell you why singing is good for you physically and mentally. It’s also not just good for your general playing, but also your sight-reading. But everyone always hates the singing element of the aural tests!

Every grade level there’s a singing element – a lot say this isn’t fair and I really can understand. But singing is so good for you. It works on your ear, your memory and if you can sing what you have heard it’s a great to show that your brain has understood and can externalise sounds.

For the early grades it’s just copying sounds and repeating them, then as the grades progress they do get harder. If you want help with the singing element of the aural tests – check out my youtube channel for some handy videos.

Once you get to grade four that’s when the singing takes on a new edge with: sight-singing

What is sight-singing?

Sight-singing is basically singing something you’ve not seen before and pitching it out loud rather than using an instrument to find the notes (unless you’re a singer).

Just from a confidence point of view you will be more likely to play a new piece better if you know how it goes. And if you can sight-sing then you can hear how it goes before you play it!

You can start working on this at any level of your music experience and even if you’re not thinking about exams.

Start with something simple like just singing back a few notes that you hear, then increasing the length of the piece you copy. This will help you get used to singing and listening to the sound you make, as you will need to make sure it is the same as the original.

Then start by practising singing your scales and arpeggios -remember this is what music is built on.

Then pick a nice key and draw a few notes (unless you have a handy aural test book - grades 4-5 have good examples of this) on a piece of manuscript paper. Just work on the first 5 notes of the scale. Draw them, sing them, play them.

Like everything – it does just come down to practice.

 

Exam Prep: What to do, what to do...

 

Exam Prep: What to do, what to do

 

Exam season is on us once more and once again – practice becomes that little bit less enjoyable and that little bit more fraught.

 

So – how do you prepare for an exam…

 

Well, the easiest thing to say is – you practice.

 

You do the same as you would in a normal lesson in a normal week in a normal moment of your life. Exams are easier if you make less of a big deal of them (easier said than done I know).

 

When you’re on the run up to the exam you really do need to make sure that you’re working on all elements of the exam – obvious I know, but I do know a lot of students that leave sight-reading and the aural tests practice to happen only during their lessons. And I also know many, many students who leave the scale practise until the last minute too!

 

DON’T!

 

Make all elements of the exam elements of a normal practice routine. They they will become something that you do, rather than something that only happens in exams (so therefore something to worry about).

 

DO:

 

Make your practice session a really effective one.

 

Warm up – long notes, dexterity exercises, octave jumps, articulation work, see how fast you can play, see if you can work over tricky jump sections without getting extra ‘blup’ notes in between.

 

Scales: Make sure you work on all of them (not just the ones you like – the tricky ones won’t get any easier!), make flash cards or just write their names on a piece of paper and pull them randomly out of a hat. Mess around with the articulation, add some rhythms… do you know the scales inside out and back to front?? (For more practice ideas see our Scale Blog Post)

 

Pieces: Don’t feel you need to practice all three *every* session – split them up over the week (maybe keep notes to remind yourself which you practised and when).

 

Sight-reading: Find an old piece, turn the book upside down. Play it backwards. Try a couple of lines of the other exam pieces. Just look at something new!! If you want a super sight-reading boost – check out the Horrible Sight-reading for Lovely People Course

 

Aural Tests: Don’t just leave it to the lesson time to practice. Ask your teacher for a list of what you need to work on. There’s loads of great aural test clips available on youtube! Including mine!

 

DON’T

 

Just play through your pieces. Play through once but then isolate the sections that need working on. Do slow practice to ensure your fingers know what they need to do. Start in the middle of the piece so your mind’s fresh for when you get to the challenging section. Be really, really fussy!!

 

DO

 

Remember to focus on your dynamics. Examiners love dynamics! Make them really, really obvious.

 

DON’T

 

Worry about the singing bit of the aural tests. It’s not worth stressing over – and remember everyone hates it, it’s not just you!

 

DO

 

Have a mock exam. Get your teacher to give you a practice exam so you know what to expect. Get a parent, grandparent, friend, partner, whoever to listen to you while you play. Get them to pretend to write things down as you play (as this is what usually makes people feel the most nervous about).

 

DON’T

 

Don’t forget – your scales, aural tests and sight-reading etc. are easy extra marks – they really can make the difference between the results you get. So do remember to practice them in your own time as well as your lesson time. (I know I said this a second ago – but it’s so important it needs mentioning twice!!).

 

DO:

 

Have fun – try and relax and enjoy it! It’ll be over before you know it!

 

Good luck!

 

Scales, scales, scales. The bane of many students lives.

 

Personally I quite like scales - you just whiz up and down and boom - job done. But I know a lot of students find it difficult to remember what each scale has in it, but a lot of the time they don’t remember just because they don’t practice them.

If you don’t try then you won’t succeed!

 

Here’s some top tips for #scale #success:

1. Try our alto sax book with backing CD - you can buy a copy here and hear a sample of one of the tracks here.

2. Play some piano chords under your student’s long held notes as they go up the scale to make a smooth and floaty sounding piece.

3. Practice singing the scales before you play them. If you can sing them you can play them!

Start by singing the first five notes of a scale starting on any note then play it.

4. Get them to improvise a new funky rhythm on each note of the scale - you could turn it into a call and response game

5. Put the scales they’re working on into a hat and let them pick out the scales

6. Add different articulation

6. If remembering the sharps and flats - you could add a rhyme or saying for each scale - So F is - Fat Birds (F major, B flat) or G major - Good Fish (G major, F sharp)

 

Don’t leave your scale practice for exams to the last minute. There’s usually far too many for you to take in last minute, and with all of the exam pressure you’ll be under anyway it’s not worth the stress.

So - with plenty of time between now and the next exam dates for all of the exam boards why not make scales a bit more fun by trying this:

 

Make some flash cards.

They can be as pretty or as plain as you wish.

Just cut up some pieces of paper of card into nice squares (or coloured paper, or rectangles or triangles or whatever you fancy).

Write your scale name on the front - say G Major

Then on the back write what sharps or flats are in that scale - so for this one you’d put F# on the back.

When you’re done put them all in a box or a pot and during your practice pick a few out at random and play them.

We like this method of scale practice as you have to think not only how to play that scale but if you got the ‘Bb and F#’ side of the card you would need to know what that scale is without it’s name. (G minor in case you were wondering). So it really makes you know your scales inside and out. Also it means that if you keep the scales out you’ve already done you can make sure you practice all of them - not just the easy ones. You can also divide the pile up into 'easy’ and 'needs work’ to make sure those you find challenging get the work they need.

Also we prefer to get our students to practice scales by ear and memory rather than using the notation as this is what you need to do in the exams.

For piano students – why not print off and try our free piano #scale exercises! By the time you get through these you’ll definitely know your scales inside and out.

 

Remember - there’s no such thing as a difficult scale (even though I hate Ab melodic minor) = there are just those that you’re not as familiar with.

 

 

 

 

 

You've Gotta Take the Rough with the Smoooooooooth

A lot of practice was done this last week on slurring with our students.

Slurring can be tricky to get your head around when you first start learning - but then it can be just as hard to switch off again.

You do need to make sure that the slurring (and other articulation) is there as marked on the piece. If not you can alter the shape of the melody, style of the song and the sounds as a whole. It’s a bit like accidentally putting stress on a word you didn’t mean to and it upsetting somebody. That can be the difference!

You can easily put slurs into your scale practice to help with alternating with slurs and tongued notes.

This way your brain and tongue can co-ordinate without you having to think too much about notes, rhythms, rests, breathing etc etc

 

Why not play your scales like this:

 

Slurred in groups of 4

Slurred in groups of 2

Slurred in groups of 3

Slurred in groups of 5 (three and five groups will be difficult – our brains like even groups!)

Or alternate the slurring (S) and tonguing (T) like this:

 

S-S TT S-S TT S-S TT S-S TT

TT S-S TT S-S TT S-S TT S-S

T S-S T T S-S T T S-S T T S-S T

 

You can also then add in staccatos and accents. Maybe try writing a pattern down for you to see to help your brain remember!

You could even compose your own pieces and add some slurs and tongued notes on. Or even get a song that you know really well and add your own articulation on it. Just make sure you’re listening really carefully to make sure that you aren’t over extending the slurs and making them longer!