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23 Oct 2012

Piano Practicing Hints

All pianists were beginners at some point and it took them some time to grow into more professional performers. While playing the Flea Waltz does not require too much concentration, Bach’s pieces will need a good deal of work to be performed brightly – and if those are to be performed on the piano – even more. Why? Because among numerous instruments piano is the one playing which one has to coordinate their body most of all – simultaneous performing with both hands and feet.

To help make piano practicing more efficient and enjoyable there are a couple of techniques that can be used both by beginners and pianists with experience. Here are some of them:


“Pre-practicing self-tuning”. One does not simply sit down at the instrument and start emitting beautiful sounds. If you have embarked on a complicated music piece, make sure you conquer it step by step, setting priorities and scheduling your work. Try to set a realistic objective for each of your training sessions. Also, study well the material beforehand, the score itself, the harmonies, the difficult parts – it will affect your coordination in a good way.

“Morning exercises”. Have you ever seen a volleyball or football player run straight into the game field without preliminary exercising? You need your muscles work good for you, so give your arms and fingers good stretching and warming up. Likewise, after you are done playing, cooling them down is also a must. FYI, these muscles are no less vulnerable as those in professional football players’ legs!

"Independent hand". To achieve best body coordination you must first be fully-coordinated in its parts. That’s why switching hands is an amazing technique to help you focus on what each involved part should do. Spend some time playing with each hand separately, make sure you switch the motions and experiment with different fingering. You will be pretty surprised how much easier two-hand playing will seem after that.

“Tick-tock”. As for rhythm controlling, preferences have divided. Some prefer to stick to the traditional metronome while others choose to set their own internal rhythm and count aloud themselves, which allows being a bit more flexible on pieces that are no regular rhythm. Whichever method you prefer, it will help to preserve the tempo.

“Pizza slice”. There is no universal ‘piece slice’ that has to be mastered at a time, so do the splitting yourself depending on what your skills, desire and mood are. No need to rush. You can break the composition into pages, sections, lines and even bars – if you stumble upon a really difficult part. The major hint here would be: Mind the Prime Time, i.e. the first 10 minutes of your practicing – that’s the time where you’d better do the most difficult work.

When your piece already ‘looks good’, don’t go limp on it – keep in shape playing it as often as you can. And remember, practicing should bring joy, don’t force yourself to train through aversion.

Your personal piano practicing suggestions are a huge welcome!

11 Oct 2012

MIMC Violin Competition

Competing is probably one the best ways to get a new stimulus for self-improvement. Watching, comparing, analyzing and striving are the key ingredients to foster development. Each country has a choice of different-level contests that are held on a regular basis. And Canada is a very active ‘music country’ in this sense.

MIMC– The Montreal International Musical Competition – started in 2002 with its first Voice-dedicated edition. It all commenced at the initiative of the Jeunesses Musicales of Canada and managed to reach a broad international scale up to now.

With time the nominations expanded to three categories and thus three separate events: Voice, Violin and Piano. So now it’s hold as a cycle – each category is rotating and has its own year to complete. The selecting procedure is based on audio recordings – that’s called the preliminary step. Next, participants go through the quarter final, semi-final, and final, demonstrating the most of their skills.

Another round is about to start: Year 2013 will be devoted to Violin. For now, the only requirement to the candidates is the age limit – up to 29 years old by January 1, 2013. The repertoire itself will become available on the official site in mid-September – keep an eye. It’s a high-level contest so the level of jury expertize and the awards budget will be respectively high. Besides the substantial money prizes (~$30 000 first prize), MIMC is going to present career development programs, special grants and CD recordings.

All violin players should better prick up their ears if they want to challenge their mastery in a large-scale event: MIMC is also a part of the World Federation of International Music Competitions, a global network of music establishments. The online registration starts in September too, so get ready!

The list of Music Competitions at MusicaNeo is regularly updated, so that you didn’t miss the most interesting and prospective of them. Make sure you drop by there once in a while.

VIDEO: 2010 violin round winner, Benjamin Beilman, 20 years, USA