April 9, 2017 at 5:32pm

Many have asked me to unpack the meaning of "music appreciation". When someone asks you, "Are you able to appreciate this piece/genre of music?", what exact does that mean?

Music appreciation has different levels:

First Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it but I can't explain why.

Second Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it but I can only explain why I like it in non-musical (layman's) terms.

Third Level: I like that music / enjoy... See More

Many have asked me to unpack the meaning of "music appreciation". When someone asks you, "Are you able to appreciate this piece/genre of music?", what exact does that mean?

Music appreciation has different levels:

First Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it but I can't explain why.

Second Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it but I can only explain why I like it in non-musical (layman's) terms.

Third Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it and I can decipher/analyse why I like it by relating it using music concepts and terms.

Fourth Level: Not only am I of the above (3rd Level), I can also play it if a score is given.

Fifth Level: Not only am I of the above (4th Level), I can also play it by sight-reading and also by ear.

Sixth Level: Not only am I of the above (5th Level), I can also play it by improvising it so that it adopts the style of another genre.

(Source: My synthesis of Reimer's Aesthetics Philosophy, Elliot's Praxial Philosophy & Revised Bloom's Taxonomy)

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Sng Yong Meng

Classically trained pianists who learn mainly by reading scores might challenge the order of level 4 and level 5, which of course is another highly debatable topic of its own. Any thoughts?

April 11, 2017 at 6:15am
Goh Zensen

There are two parts to this. First, the defined Level 5 here is not just having the ability to play-by-ear. It refers to those who can sight-read PLUS possessing the play-by-ear ability (dual... See More

There are two parts to this. First, the defined Level 5 here is not just having the ability to play-by-ear. It refers to those who can sight-read PLUS possessing the play-by-ear ability (dual skills). In other words, they are progressive in nature. Incidentally, and statistically speaking, there are indeed more who are able to sight-read than those who are able to play-by-ear, thus portraying the right pyramid structure.

Second, according to the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy, playing-by-ear is a higher -order thinking skill-set because while a computer can play out a piece of music when a MIDI score is fed onto it, it lacks the ability to play-by-ear (relative pitch, not absolute pitch because the former requires musicality while the latter does not). It is akin to newsreaders who can read a passage extremely well (with good diction and intonation) but are unable to speak well in the impromptu/off-the-cuff sense (when relating an incident).

April 11, 2017 at 9:18am
Chris Khoo

I agree with Yong Meng. For those who can play by ear, most of the time it's pretty effortless (it's an innate talent which can be cultivated further I believe ), whereas playing by score often... See More

I agree with Yong Meng. For those who can play by ear, most of the time it's pretty effortless (it's an innate talent which can be cultivated further I believe ), whereas playing by score often takes hard work and concentration (unless of course you can sight read effortlessly :)

April 11, 2017 at 9:18am
Chris Khoo

There are those who can't read music notes but can play a piece by ear even better than one who can read the score !

April 11, 2017 at 9:19am
April 5, 2017 at 7:38pm

I've just listened to an atonal work. To summarise it in two words, I would use the acronym, "Organised Mess". Please note this has nothing to do with its superiority, beauty or aesthetic level.

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Goh Zensen

"The Clothed Woman" does have tonal sections!

April 5, 2017 at 9:13pm
Wenqing

Like schoenbergish atonal?

April 5, 2017 at 9:43pm
Sng Yong Meng

Lol, Zensen's baby piano is a Schoenberg! Ok, I sidetracked. =D

April 7, 2017 at 1:46pm
Goh Zensen

Haha, Yong Meng, you do have a photographic memory!

April 7, 2017 at 3:10pm
April 5, 2017 at 9:49pm

Finally I'm able to conduct this from tomorrow, after an ultra-long wait and preparation!

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Lim Jin Li

Hi Zensen, any details of the above mentioned workshop?

April 6, 2017 at 2:08am
Goh Zensen

Haha I'm conducting it FOC for my cluster schools of music teachers over three Thursday afternoons. As the intermediate level workshop I did for them was well received last year, they requested to... See More

Haha I'm conducting it FOC for my cluster schools of music teachers over three Thursday afternoons. As the intermediate level workshop I did for them was well received last year, they requested to go deeper into it. PM me if keen, thanks.

April 6, 2017 at 8:08am
April 5, 2017 at 12:53pm

Above is a link to a short film that depicts what goes on in some parts of our society.
Yong Meng, this is relevant to our discussion regarding why parents stop music learning for academics.

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Sng Yong Meng

Wow, that's a nice short animation film!

It was sad when the dad finally realises something, and it was too late - the violinist was no longer there.

How many times in life have we... See More

Wow, that's a nice short animation film!

It was sad when the dad finally realises something, and it was too late - the violinist was no longer there.

How many times in life have we let chances slip by us in this way - how familiar.

April 7, 2017 at 11:12am
Goh Zensen

This is indeed a touching movie! It unearths a crucial topic in Music & Society - what does our society hold the value/worth/esteem/respect towards the music discipline (as a course of study)... See More

This is indeed a touching movie! It unearths a crucial topic in Music & Society - what does our society hold the value/worth/esteem/respect towards the music discipline (as a course of study) and the career of a musician? Why are these not as highly regarded as compared to other areas of study and professions such as medicine, law, banking and engineering?

April 5, 2017 at 7:29pm
Chris Khoo

This video portrays the Singapore situation so well !

April 5, 2017 at 8:01pm
March 29, 2017 at 10:27pm

Responding to Yong Meng's request to post the photos of the Bosendorfer grand piano...which has 9 extra keys.. I played on it in 2006 in Toronto. This piano cost C$238,000 back then (see the price tag!). The extra 9 keys are in black in the last photo.

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Sng Yong Meng

Is this the Bosendofer 290 Imperial model?

March 30, 2017 at 12:03pm
Chris Khoo

Absolutely ... (it says so on the white card). Want to buy one for Pianovers Meetups? :)

March 30, 2017 at 12:24pm
Sng Yong Meng

Lol, the extra keys will be under-utilised.

April 5, 2017 at 3:02pm
March 31, 2017 at 12:19pm

Of late, I've noticed that more and more piano teachers (whom I know personally) are not genuinely passionate about music or music education. They are just treating it as a job (for income purposes), and thus perceiving any musicking activity (e.g. jamming with friends) as an extension to their job (which they would want to avoid). Any thoughts about this?

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Corrine Ying

Agree with Albert. Full-time music teachers can't afford to sacrifice their source of income for leisure activities. Not taking part in these activities doesn't mean they are not genuinely... See More

Agree with Albert. Full-time music teachers can't afford to sacrifice their source of income for leisure activities. Not taking part in these activities doesn't mean they are not genuinely interested in music education.

That said, leisure/social music-making does have its place in my life. That's why I have shifted a student to make space for the Pianover's Meetup every Sunday evening. However, other students may not be so accommodating. We all know that piano lessons are usually held at night or on weekends, which is (unfortunately) also the time that leisure and social activities take place.

A teacher who cancels lessons because of jamming sessions would not only lose income, but also come across as lacking commitment towards the student.

March 31, 2017 at 2:10pm
Goh Zensen

Now I see, thanks for sharing! Anyway a spin-off from this discussion is whether one believes in investments (aka "wasting time to gain time in the future"). While Corrine is willing to "... See More

Now I see, thanks for sharing! Anyway a spin-off from this discussion is whether one believes in investments (aka "wasting time to gain time in the future"). While Corrine is willing to "sacrifice" a regular piano lesson slot for attending Pianovers Meetups, she is doing it because of her passion in music and believes in doing this as a form of leisure activity. However, to others, have they ever wondered, by attending Pianovers Meetups, it is actually an investment (though giving up a piano lesson) because through networking, etc., one can garner more piano teaching assignments in the long run? And also possibly learning from fellow piano tutors on how to teach certain aspects which are challenging?

March 31, 2017 at 8:34pm
Corrine Ying

Zensen, you do have a point there. Although I participate in Pianover Meetups primarily for leisure and personal growth, I do see it as a way of enhancing one's teaching as well. Thanks for the... See More

Zensen, you do have a point there. Although I participate in Pianover Meetups primarily for leisure and personal growth, I do see it as a way of enhancing one's teaching as well. Thanks for the insights!

March 31, 2017 at 9:54pm
Chris Khoo

Do piano teachers generally have a more "academic" mindset when it comes to music vs those who have a more "performance-oriented" mindset? Just a thought. (I really appreciate everything my piano... See More

Do piano teachers generally have a more "academic" mindset when it comes to music vs those who have a more "performance-oriented" mindset? Just a thought. (I really appreciate everything my piano teachers taught me. :)

March 31, 2017 at 10:12pm
March 29, 2017 at 11:25am

How do you teaching fingering on the piano? Do you advocate a "fixed way" for fingering (as spelled out in the score, especially), or do you train learners to adopt a more flexible approach?

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Maxim Yanchenko

Both, depends on a situation. The written fingering, when it contradicts the habitual fingering of a student, frequently exposes weaknesses and gives a way to address them (for example, overuse of... See More

Both, depends on a situation. The written fingering, when it contradicts the habitual fingering of a student, frequently exposes weaknesses and gives a way to address them (for example, overuse of the third finger when the forth is more appropriate but it's weak and therefore uncomfortable to use). Otherwise the weaknesses would stay hidden and the student would end up with a very limited set of fingering patterns he's comfortable with.

March 29, 2017 at 11:30am
Goh Zensen

Thanks for your sharing!

March 29, 2017 at 11:37am
Goh Zensen

Explaining why music theorists are always lagging behind instrumentalists!

March 29, 2017 at 11:40am
Gee Yong

Adopt flexible approach due to short or long fingers. In playing different genre of music may requires different fingering techniques.

March 31, 2017 at 5:57pm
March 27, 2017 at 12:38pm

How important are graded piano exams?
Feel free to discuss and debate

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Goh Zensen

Indeed a very interesting topic!

March 27, 2017 at 10:22pm
Sng Yong Meng

Theng Beng, are your kids learning the piano currently?

March 27, 2017 at 10:41pm
Corrine Ying

Yong Meng's article has rightly pointed out the downsides of exam-oriented learning (weak sight-reading, limited repertoire and loss of interest which was also mentioned by Theng Beng). But as... See More

Yong Meng's article has rightly pointed out the downsides of exam-oriented learning (weak sight-reading, limited repertoire and loss of interest which was also mentioned by Theng Beng). But as Zensen said in the first comment, it ultimately boils down to the learner's objectives or purposes.

In defence of exams, these graded assessments are a tangible measure of one's progress, for the learner and for the parent. They are also a source of external motivation, which I believe, has its place alongside intrinsic motivation. Some kids may want to learn certain songs they like very much (e.g. from movies), but because they are unaware of the hard work and commitment needed to master the song, they may also give up eventually. Hence, being "forced" to learn something may not be as bad as it sounds.

The practical purposes would be, as Yong Meng mentioned, entry into MEP in schools or DSA, although an audition may also be held. Moreover, if a learner aspires to become a piano teacher, they would need to attain certification. A qualification from an established institution would enable employers to hire in a fair and objective way. If not, piano teachers would likely need to rely on personal connections or word-of-mouth recommendations.

March 29, 2017 at 11:10am
Gan Theng Beng

I am currently try to 'influence' my eldest daughter who is 10years old to pickup piano. I think she got good height, fingers are Long enough and still flexible. She currently still prefer guitar... See More

I am currently try to 'influence' my eldest daughter who is 10years old to pickup piano. I think she got good height, fingers are Long enough and still flexible. She currently still prefer guitar over piano. I always believe piano is the fundamental basic of all musical instruments. Once you knew piano then you could pick up and learn other musical instruments.

March 30, 2017 at 5:54pm
March 30, 2017 at 9:34am

Since I'm a music theorist, I shall start the ball rolling. Personally, I don't quite like the name of this discipline because it often carries with it a not-so-positive connotation. Why? Generally people would associate it with the learning of (especially) the Western 5-lined stave or notation system (or what we colloquially call it 'the tadpoles' or 'beansprouts').

But we know that Music Theory comprises much more than that - other than notations, it also touches on items such as... See More

Since I'm a music theorist, I shall start the ball rolling. Personally, I don't quite like the name of this discipline because it often carries with it a not-so-positive connotation. Why? Generally people would associate it with the learning of (especially) the Western 5-lined stave or notation system (or what we colloquially call it 'the tadpoles' or 'beansprouts').

But we know that Music Theory comprises much more than that - other than notations, it also touches on items such as harmony, modulations and syncopated rhythms.

Thus, I would prefer to call it 'music concepts'. It is akin to 'salesman' being re-coined as 'sales engineers'.

Closely related to this, the titles of the music arranger and copywriters aren't going a service to what they deserve - people who don't know are likely to misconceive them respectively as "workers who arrange for music events, including coordinating logistics matters" and "workers who copy (or transcribe) what someone articulates orally onto a piece of paper".

Any thoughts to share?

March 27, 2017 at 1:03pm

Do you think piano technician/restoration is a diminishing trade in Singapore? Do you think it is a correlation to the number of pianist in Singapore? Feel free to share your observations and experience!

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Corrine Ying

Haha i prefer the analogy of "car dealer" vs "car mechanic".

March 29, 2017 at 6:53pm
Sng Yong Meng

Jin Li, I also observe that there is no official education route that leads to a piano tuner or piano technician career in Singapore.

Consequently, here's a thought:
For so many years... See More

Jin Li, I also observe that there is no official education route that leads to a piano tuner or piano technician career in Singapore.

Consequently, here's a thought:
For so many years, most pianists, parents, students, schools have employed piano tuners and technicians without much background check on whether they have the necessary certifications, and the tuners and technicians are hired, more often than not, based on trust and assumptions.

If you want to hire a tuition teacher, you might ask for their education certificates to demonstrate the fundamental level of credibility. (Even if he has the paper qualifications, it does not mean he will be a good teacher.)

If you want to hire a swimming instructor, you also might ask for his Instructor Certificate before entrusting your kids to learn from him.

I think we hire plumbers without knowledge whether he has the certifications or not.

This can actually open up another topic: If a person has acquired sufficient experience and expertise to perform his responsibilities and is able to fulfil his duties, does he need to possess any paper qualifications before you will consider him for employment?

March 29, 2017 at 7:10pm
Goh Zensen

Corrine - you're right - 'car dealer vs mechanic' is a much better analogy!

March 29, 2017 at 8:31pm
Lim Jin Li

Yong Meng, interestingly I actually had this discussion with 2 young budding piano technicians.

To perfect any skill, the best results come from mindful repetition. Hence the argument is... See More

Yong Meng, interestingly I actually had this discussion with 2 young budding piano technicians.

To perfect any skill, the best results come from mindful repetition. Hence the argument is whether there is a need to go all out and seek formal education for it (the vocational courses are very expensive), why not just stay in Singapore and apprentice under a skilled piano technician?

First reason being lack of apprenticeship opportunities. There are limited piano technicians to begin with, compounded with few are willing to teach for various reasons; some are retired; some are not interested; inconvenient for freelance piano technicians to have an apprentice going around people's houses with them, plus the fact that they might not actually have calls every day. Therefore the only condition match for apprenticeship is probably a 2nd hand piano shop with a piano technician who is willing to teach as that is the only condition where there is an abundance of piano to work on under guidance.

Secondly, a formal institute will have a curriculum designed to gain recognition from reputable pianists/organisations, hence apprentice and companies will have confidence in the education provided. I think this applies for all certificates/paper that we gain in any field of discipline. Traditional apprenticeship has more room for questions and doubts for the teaching methods, hence one has to really know the good from the bad to be able to choose the right place to invest their time for learning.

With the above being said, "Practice makes perfect" still holds true. A certificate/paper in piano restoration/tuning is only good for the first step forward in the industry, it does not guarantee the quality of work provided. Just my 2 cents.

March 29, 2017 at 10:53pm

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