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#38812 - 08/06/08 01:13 AM How to play mysteriously?
C.Y. Offline
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Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
My 6 years old son started taking lesson two months ago. This week, one of his homework is to think and try to play "Tom Cat Howl" (PA T&A level 1) mysteriously as written (he already can play notes and rhythm correctly). Could you give me some pointer on helping my son understand and be able to play mysteriously? I don't have much music background, I would think that a cat walking at night (left hand staccato?) should be played very softly, but I can't think of it to be mysterious. Thanks!

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#38818 - 08/06/08 12:36 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: C.Y.]
Lillystar Offline
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Registered: 02/04/08
Posts: 16
C.Y. You have the right idea using imagery to help evoke the mood of your piece. I'd use your 'cat walking at night' example with your son. Also - look for clues on the music page - what are the dynamic symbols? Dynamic symbols such as: p , mp , f , indicate how loud or soft one should play. Also look for articulation symbols like the staccato to give you additional clues on how to play the piece. HTH.

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#38821 - 08/06/08 11:06 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: Lillystar]
C.Y. Offline
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Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Thanks for the answer, Lillystar. It does have dynamic symbols (p) and staccato for the left hand. I am just not sure why Mrs. Faber put "mysteriously" on the top left corner where usually shows the tempo of the song. I can understand if it is slowly , quietly or lightly. But I don't know what Mrs. Faber expects kids to play by saying mysteriously.

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#38827 - 08/07/08 01:44 AM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: C.Y.]
Arlene Steffen Moderator Offline
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Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
Because all music has mood of some kind. It helps to stir the imagination! That's what music is all about! I bet your son knows exactly what to do with that.

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#38835 - 08/07/08 11:33 AM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: Arlene Steffen]
unreal Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/23/03
Posts: 945
Loc: CA
Lots of music shows mood there too, i.e. molto espressione, con brio, cantabile, lento placido, nerveux et avec humour, anime et tumultueux, triste et lente . I found these in a quick thumb-through of Beethoven and Debussy. Even allegro really means "cheerful." Ahhh, I'm moody and smiling just thinking about them all. grin


Edited by unreal (08/07/08 11:40 AM)

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#38836 - 08/07/08 12:22 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: unreal]
xstitch4me Offline
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Registered: 08/15/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Idaho
Using staccato, soft and a slow tempo DOES sound mysterious. If it is modeled for the student, they GET it. They will copy it too. The student has to think about the music before beginning to play it. Read the words. Think about the story it tells. Sometimes that is all it takes to play mysteriously right away. A good teacher will explain the difference, if you play loud and fast, it won't sound mysteriously.

How boring if every piece was the same tempo with the same dynamics. If you look at that exact piece, I think Nancy hits the nail right on the head by suggesting to play it "mysteriously"!

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#38842 - 08/07/08 11:32 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: Arlene Steffen]
C.Y. Offline
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Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Originally Posted By: Arlene Steffen
Because all music has mood of some kind. It helps to stir the imagination! That's what music is all about! I bet your son knows exactly what to do with that.

If my son knows how to play mysteriously, I wouldn't have posted this question for him. When he plays "Shepherd's Song" in the lesson book, he does know how to play peacefully by playing slower and softer. At least for us, what he plays sounds peacefully. Maybe not for you guys, but the word "mysteriously" is somehow hard for us to feel or express it through music.

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#38843 - 08/07/08 11:36 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: unreal]
C.Y. Offline
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Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Originally Posted By: unreal
Lots of music shows mood there too, i.e. molto espressione, con brio, cantabile, lento placido, nerveux et avec humour, anime et tumultueux, triste et lente . I found these in a quick thumb-through of Beethoven and Debussy. Even allegro really means "cheerful." Ahhh, I'm moody and smiling just thinking about them all. grin


We are talking about a 6 years old beginner here. You guys are professional, please don't use your standard and assume everyone knows it. Thanks!

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#38844 - 08/07/08 11:55 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: xstitch4me]
C.Y. Offline
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Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Originally Posted By: xstitch4me
Using staccato, soft and a slow tempo DOES sound mysterious. If it is modeled for the student, they GET it. They will copy it too. The student has to think about the music before beginning to play it. Read the words. Think about the story it tells. Sometimes that is all it takes to play mysteriously right away. A good teacher will explain the difference, if you play loud and fast, it won't sound mysteriously.

How boring if every piece was the same tempo with the same dynamics. If you look at that exact piece, I think Nancy hits the nail right on the head by suggesting to play it "mysteriously"!


Thank you for pointing out the slow tempo. My son was playing with tempo of 120 or so, but he did play softly on left hand. Maybe that's why this becomes his homework. Buy why not just say "slowly" and maybe in the Discovery question area author can ask student that do they feel mysteriously when playing slow and soft?
I think (at least for us) it is easier to feel mysteriously by knowing how to play it (slow and soft). And it is harder to figure out how to play in order to feel mysteriously.

p.s. I would think a tom cat should walk fast, a slow tempo sounds like it is an old cat. xD

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#38845 - 08/08/08 12:42 AM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: C.Y.]
xstitch4me Offline
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Registered: 08/15/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Idaho
C.Y. I think your attitude kind of stinks! You've come with questions and we've been trying to explain to you and you come back with quite a rude response. If you know better than us as "professionals with such high standards" why ask? I don't think any answer any of us gives you will satisfy you. There is so much more to music than just "play loud", "Play soft", "staccato", "legato"..........by setting the tempo of the song as "mysterious" the child is able to use his/her imagination to create more than just a piece of music with notes written on a page - he/she can tell a story through their playing.

I hate to say but you may just be one of those parents a lot of us dread having. It's good to ask questions and to be curious - that's the way we learn. But to not accept the advice, knowledge and suggestions of a teacher makes asking questions pointless.

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#38846 - 08/08/08 01:52 AM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: xstitch4me]
C.Y. Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Originally Posted By: xstitch4me
C.Y. I think your attitude kind of stinks! You've come with questions and we've been trying to explain to you and you come back with quite a rude response. If you know better than us as "professionals with such high standards" why ask? I don't think any answer any of us gives you will satisfy you.

I am surprised to see your response. I thought I always say "Thank you" to the reply. Apparently something I said makes you unhappy and I am sorry about that.

As to the "professional" comment, when I saw the words molto espressione, con brio, cantabile, lento placido, nerveux et avec humour, anime et tumultueux, triste et lente, I know my questions are easy and silly for you guys and I really appreciate if you can see we are just beginners. A concept that is easy and apparent for you won't be easy and apparent for myself and my 6 years old son.

Originally Posted By: xstitch4me
There is so much more to music than just "play loud", "Play soft", "staccato", "legato"..........by setting the tempo of the song as "mysterious" the child is able to use his/her imagination to create more than just a piece of music with notes written on a page - he/she can tell a story through their playing.

Maybe my son and myself don't have imagination. We can't figure out that this song should be played slowly to make it mysterious till you pointed it out.

Originally Posted By: xstitch4me
I hate to say but you may just be one of those parents a lot of us dread having. It's good to ask questions and to be curious - that's the way we learn. But to not accept the advice, knowledge and suggestions of a teacher makes asking questions pointless.

Why did you say I don't accept the advice? I thought I took your advice to play this song slowly and I took other people advices on wrist float-off and how to see a phrase? Do you mean if I have another question to your answer, that would make me not accepting the advice?

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#38852 - 08/08/08 12:05 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: C.Y.]
Susan Offline
Star Member

Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 2168
Loc: Texas
Hi CY. I get it that you're just trying to be helpful for your 6 year old and learn something at the same time. Maybe if you go to the videos that Nancy Faber has posted on this web site you will get some ideas about how teachers teach this kind of thing. It's really impossible to do by writing on a message board such as this.

Mysterious is a word like many adjectives in English that are hard to describe, but everyone has an idea. In all my years of teaching, I've always had little children understand how to play mysterious, even if they don't know what that word means. I can tip toe around the room, make a odd face, play something that sounds sneaky to me, show a picture, etc. Yes, I could say play soft and staccato, and I do. But music is so much more FUN for children if we use the FULL range of English adjectives. How do I know that? Years and years of working with children who love to come to music lessons.

When I write music for my students I use all kinds of words such as sneakily, calm, excited, joyful, just about anything I can think of. I even go to the dictionary to look up words that have just the meaning I'm feeling about a piece. Some children are not very imaginative, but a good teacher can always coax something out of them. Learning to use their imagination will help them in other subjects in school, too. Often children give me a blank look and act like they don't know what in the world I'm talking about. But they always catch on eventually, as your child will. We lay the seeds of imaginative playing when they are young, and see the fruits are they grow and mature.

I think you are worrying much too much about the whole thing. Let your teacher worry about how to get your 6 year old to play mysteriously, and you be there to love and support him or her by listening and saying positive things and making sure your child gets the practice in. If you feel like the teacher is not explaining things enough, talk to the teacher. I bet the teacher is going over all this in the lesson and you don't even need to worry about it. Helicopter parents who hover over every detail take all the fun out of piano for a 6 year old and makes them nervous and tight. They don't sound good and they don't have fun. Not that I think you're doing that, but you do want to be careful. We parents walk a thin line between support and interference. I had 3 children take music lessons, and I'm a Grandma now, so I speak from experience. I'm sure if I could go back I'd do some things differently.
Hope this helps. -Susan

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#38853 - 08/08/08 12:37 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: Susan]
xstitch4me Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/15/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Idaho
Susan,

Said much better than I did. I apologize if I offended you C.Y.

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#38855 - 08/08/08 01:41 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: C.Y.]
unreal Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/23/03
Posts: 945
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: C.Y

We are talking about a 6 years old beginner here. You guys are professional, please don't use your standard and assume everyone knows it. Thanks!


C.Y., I assumed you DIDN'T know it and were looking for information; that's why I posted. Remember? You thought the word in the upper left corner specifies tempo, when really it can specify either tempo or mood or both.

Perhaps I should have included translations: lots of expression, with spirit, singing, slow & unruffled, tense & with humor, lively & tumultuous, sadly & slowly.

Personally, I think it's all fascinating--composers' intentions, the different languages they use, how we performers bring it to life, too many things to list. I hope you find it interesting too.


Edited by unreal (08/08/08 02:00 PM)
Edit Reason: add translations

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#38857 - 08/08/08 05:04 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: Susan]
Arlene Steffen Moderator Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
Originally Posted By: Susan
I think you are worrying much too much about the whole thing. Let your teacher worry about how to get your 6 year old to play mysteriously, and you be there to love and support him or her by listening and saying positive things and making sure your child gets the practice in. If you feel like the teacher is not explaining things enough, talk to the teacher. I bet the teacher is going over all this in the lesson and you don't even need to worry about it. Helicopter parents who hover over every detail take all the fun out of piano for a 6 year old and makes them nervous and tight. They don't sound good and they don't have fun.


Amen!

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#38858 - 08/09/08 01:00 AM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: Susan]
C.Y. Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Originally Posted By: Susan

Mysterious is a word like many adjectives in English that are hard to describe, but everyone has an idea. In all my years of teaching, I've always had little children understand how to play mysterious, even if they don't know what that word means. I can tip toe around the room, make a odd face, play something that sounds sneaky to me, show a picture, etc. Yes, I could say play soft and staccato, and I do. But music is so much more FUN for children if we use the FULL range of English adjectives. How do I know that? Years and years of working with children who love to come to music lessons.

When I write music for my students I use all kinds of words such as sneakily, calm, excited, joyful, just about anything I can think of. I even go to the dictionary to look up words that have just the meaning I'm feeling about a piece. Some children are not very imaginative, but a good teacher can always coax something out of them. Learning to use their imagination will help them in other subjects in school, too. Often children give me a blank look and act like they don't know what in the world I'm talking about. But they always catch on eventually, as your child will. We lay the seeds of imaginative playing when they are young, and see the fruits are they grow and mature.

Thank you for your thorough explanation and kindly advice. We had a lesson today and the word the teacher used is sneaky, just like you said. She wanted my son plays the same way like last time, but pretends like a spy and sneak around. He got the idea right away and played the left hand notes with "sneaky" fingers. I guess some words are just easier to image than others.
Today he also played "Shepherd's Song" which has a marking of peacefully. The teacher commented that if Beethoven can hear what he just played, Beethoven would be very happy. My son likes this comment a lot. xD

Originally Posted By: Susan

I think you are worrying much too much about the whole thing. Let your teacher worry about how to get your 6 year old to play mysteriously, and you be there to love and support him or her by listening and saying positive things and making sure your child gets the practice in. If you feel like the teacher is not explaining things enough, talk to the teacher. I bet the teacher is going over all this in the lesson and you don't even need to worry about it. Helicopter parents who hover over every detail take all the fun out of piano for a 6 year old and makes them nervous and tight. They don't sound good and they don't have fun. Not that I think you're doing that, but you do want to be careful. We parents walk a thin line between support and interference. I had 3 children take music lessons, and I'm a Grandma now, so I speak from experience. I'm sure if I could go back I'd do some things differently.
Hope this helps. -Susan

Yes, there is a fine line and probably different lines for different kids. If parents don't supervise the practice, I wonder how many 6 years old kids can remember what teacher emphasizes during the weekly lessons. And even they do remember, how many actually practice those points and also correct themselves. If parents should supervise the practice, this is what I do currently, maybe you can give me more suggestions. I sit in the lessons and try to remember what teacher emphasizes and try to understand those concepts myself. We play role-playing game in the practice. I play the teacher role first when he practice, then he plays the teacher role next when I try to play the same piece. If he can point out what I did wrong, it means he really gets the concept. At first couple lessons, curved fingers was the main topic. About a month ago, emphasizing downbeat became the main topic. Recently, the expression and round fingers for legato is the main focus. It works so far but the problem is I probably won't be able to play anymore as it gets harder and harder (next week he will start to use level 2A books). I will also definitely watch the signs that you list when it's time for him to practice alone.

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#38859 - 08/09/08 01:02 AM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: xstitch4me]
C.Y. Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Originally Posted By: xstitch4me
Susan,

Said much better than I did. I apologize if I offended you C.Y.

No need to apologize, xstitch4me. I think it's just misunderstanding caused by my poor English.

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#38860 - 08/09/08 01:15 AM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: unreal]
C.Y. Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Originally Posted By: unreal

C.Y., I assumed you DIDN'T know it and were looking for information; that's why I posted. Remember? You thought the word in the upper left corner specifies tempo, when really it can specify either tempo or mood or both.

Perhaps I should have included translations: lots of expression, with spirit, singing, slow & unruffled, tense & with humor, lively & tumultuous, sadly & slowly.

Personally, I think it's all fascinating--composers' intentions, the different languages they use, how we performers bring it to life, too many things to list. I hope you find it interesting too.

Thanks for the translation and now I see what you meant. At first, for example I thought I just asked some beginner algebra question and you answered the solution by using advanced calculus. xD
I don't think I understand "tense & with humor" though. Others I think I can image it with music.

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#38861 - 08/09/08 11:36 AM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: C.Y.]
unreal Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/23/03
Posts: 945
Loc: CA
Ha--I've wondered too, how to play "tense & with humor"! I thought we were NOT supposed to be tense. grin crazy (That is my challenge--to make Debussy's piece sound tense and humorous without getting tense myself.)

I think it's wonderful that you help your child practice! He will go farther faster because you are interested, involved and encouraging.

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#38864 - 08/09/08 08:57 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: C.Y.]
xstitch4me Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/15/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Idaho
Originally Posted By: C.Y.
It works so far but the problem is I probably won't be able to play anymore as it gets harder and harder (next week he will start to use level 2A books). I will also definitely watch the signs that you list when it's time for him to practice alone.


Just a question.....if he was just working on Tom Cat Howl in the Level 1 Technique book - WHY is he starting Level 2A next week? Is your teacher just skipping the rest of Level 1??? Does your teacher use all 4 of the books together?? If not, I'd say your son is missing A LOT! Unless he's some sort of prodigy - I'd have to wonder.

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#38881 - 08/11/08 12:54 PM Re: How to play mysteriously? [Re: xstitch4me]
C.Y. Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 15
Last lesson they were in Unit 10 of level 1 Lesson book and next lesson they will be using 2A Lesson book.
My son likes to go ahead and try new songs himself. About 3 weeks ago, he already went through all songs (at least right notes and rhythm) in three level 1 books (Lesson, T&A and Performance). His teacher knew it and gave him another book (Alfred All in one book 3) so he can try new songs (with eighth notes).
During lesson, my son plays a piece and the teacher will show him what he needs to do differently (like downbeat, melody v.s. harmony, hands and fingers technique to sound better). Then he will try again and usually he can do what teacher asks him to do. Then they will play duet if there is one. If time were not limited, they could go on and on (no skipping, also went through all three books).
She said she has higher standard for him and would demand stuff she usually won't do for this level. Even though she knows he can play the whole books, she still wants him do it one by one in front of her.
So they don't skip at all and if time is allowed, they can probably be on unit 10 of all three books.
I wouldn't use the word prodigy at all. I think my son just has good memory and above average music instinct. He can memorize those songs easily after playing it several times. Say if the next lesson will start from unit 8, he can play songs (about 10 pages) from unit 8 one by one in order without looking at the books. He showed this to me in practice, but I told him that he still want to look at the book so his sightreading can be better.

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