Saturday, July 19, 2008

How Long Do I Have To Keep Taking Lessons?

There comes a time in the life of every piano student when he asks the question "How long do I have to keep taking lessons?"
The answer is simple: Don't quit before you get to the "tipping point".

There is a "tipping point" in piano that when reached makes it easy to continue as a pianist even if lessons aren't taken. It's like a teeter totter -- once the weight gets on your side, things begin to happen and momentum takes over. Once people know you play well, you get asked to do things -- accompany someone, play at SS, at school, etc. and your skill brings with it some pride of achievement and satisfaction of participating.

As you may know, I took lessons from about 1st grade through 7th or so with no intention of doing anything with it, but because of that I was asked to do several things (let's see if I can remember):

1. When I was a freshman in Placer High the accompanyist for the school choir (which I sang in) was sick for a week, and Mr. Walker asked me to fill in. I was scared and didn't want to, but ended up doing it. I faked a lot of it, but got through.

2. The piano player for a school dance band had just graduated, and because I played a little and they didn't have any alternative, they asked me to play with them. They said I would have to know chords, and I didn't, so I learned a WHOLE bunch in a very few months simply out of fear of being embarrased. I didn't feel very comfortable playing with the group for a couple years, but I gradually got the hang of it.

3. Harry, the owner of the funeral parlor, saw me play at Sunday School at the Methodist church across the street, so asked me if I would fill in for the organist at the funeral home when she was gone. Again, I didn't want to do it, but it paid $15., and all I had to play was 2 or 3 songs.
    So one thing led to another and before long I was playing semi-professionally, and then professionally, and eventually played almost continuously for soloists, groups, quartets, trombone quartets, etc. etc. It was natural then to begin teaching privately part time, then full time, then having a studio of my own, then teaching by cassette long distance, then publishing my own piano books and cassettes and then videos and......
     The point of all this is: Get past the tipping point! Once you do, momentum will take over. If you like music, don't quit taking lessons until opportunities like this arise naturally -- and don't quit at all if you want to get really good. I continued to take lessons on and off while I was playing professionally, and it paid off big time!

What is a "Symphony"?

The term symphony has two meanings. It is first and foremost a classical composition consisting of several movements in a somewhat rigid form; this form of music is where the term symphony originated and where its true meaning lies. But it has in more recent times come to refer to any type of classical orchestra; this meaning comes from the phrase symphony orchestra, which refers to an orchestra that specifically plays symphonies, but it is now used to denote any orchestra regardless of the musical forms they perform.

A symphony is distinguishable from other compositions by a series of elements that tend to define the form. The most important element of a traditional symphony is that it is written in four movements, no more and no less. The first movement is divided into the parts of sonata form; the second movement is slower and taken down in dynamic; the third movement is a more upbeat minuet variation on the second movement; and the last movement is a return to the first movement, with or without the sonata form. As the symphony evolved over time, many composers experimented with this idea of strict movements, often including more than four or altering the specific symphony rules within each. And though the traditional symphony is completely instrumental (another defining element), composers of later years began incorporating vocal melodies in complement to the various movements. This is a part of more modern symphony that is not incredibly common, however; most symphony orchestras are just that -- instrumental orchestras.

The first symphony was composed by Italian composer Giuseppe Torelli around 1698 and has since become the province of many infamous composers of several musical eras. Joseph Haydn was by far the most prolific composer of the symphony, composing over 100 in his lifetime. But it's Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who frequently get credit for perfecting the symphony form. Though they may not have been main innovators of the symphony, they are remembered as being its most faithful composers.

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