We finally have regular internet access... let the blogging commence:
This is Viktor and Grace, based in Kolkata.
We have a busy schedule, working six days a week at three schools in Calcutta and Salt Lake – Calcutta School of Music, Dolna Day School and C4 School of Music. Grace works mostly at CSM, with one day at C4 and some morning and evening classes at Dolna. She helps with singing, recorder, violin, drums and piano. Viktor is primarily involved in piano and music theory, mostly at CSM and C4, with some sessions at Dolna.
Our Free Fridays© are usually spent finding shopping centres and markets, and for Grace, being distracted by sparkly things and spending too much money on clothes. (- That’s really true! says Viktor.)
Impressions about students and teaching
We have had a very warm welcome in Kolkata, and are being extremely well looked after by all the teaching staff. We have lovely, safe accommodation in Dolna School, with food provided for us every day. If we have any need for medication or doctor’s appointments, we get all the support we need.
Our pupils are enthusiastic and respectful – they are attentive and eager to make the most of every lesson. Ages and standards are hugely varied, and although some of the younger ones don’t have much of a practice timetable (!), many of the older pupils practice every day.
The kids are very affectionate, and we have been given drawings and sweets on many occasions!
How to practice:
The students need an increased awareness of different practice techniques, e.g. hands separately, varied articulation (staccato, legato) and rhythms (dotted, triplets), slow practice, and practising select passages rather than playing through the whole piece.
Breakdown of rhythms:
The rhythmic relation of one note to another, the function of a dotted note and the ‘pulse’ of the music are some aspects of rhythm which can be problematic – i.e., the maths behind the music.
A metronome beating the smallest rhythmic value of the piece usually helps with the subdivision of note values. We are hoping to take a session for younger children to help with both the understanding of note values and a more general concept of ‘pulse’.
Playing from memory:
It is fashionable to play piano music from memory very quickly, even in the early stages of learning a piece. This can result in mistakes being ‘learnt’ into the music (of which they are unaware), and a lack of ability to read music fluently (due to lack of reading the written score while playing).
Pedalling and hand position:
We’ve noticed in students that the pedal is often lifted too late or too early, affecting clarity and continuity in the music. We are aiming to make students more aware of the effect on the actual sound produced through different pedalling techniques.
As with any young students, there are many dipping wrists and flat fingers...
Musical genres and styles:
Lack of generic distinction is particularly evident in Baroque music, where appropriate articulation is often missing or understated. This is partly because the student may not have broken the music down into phrases, sub-phrases, etc.
We are planning several workshops in which we will help the students to aurally distinguish the features of different genres, and to reflect this in their playing. (Hopefully, by using syllabus repertoire, we can incorporate some practice techniques which will be immediately useful to them!).
A brief note on violin technique from Grace – the most common left-hand technique here is to hold the neck of the violin in the curve between the thumb and first finger (i.e., the thumb is right round the side of the neck rather than underneath it). I am not used to this technique, and feel it is quite restrictive – it effectively shortens your fingers (!) and can make fourth-finger tuning and shifting more difficult. I’ve brought this up with the teachers, and it seems that the only widely available violin tutor book recommends this position. I have suggested a more flexible hand position for beginners, but many of the students have been practising this hold for several years and I don’t feel I should meddle with it...
One other small point is that some violin students hold the bow very high up on the wood which lessens their control over it and can cause excessive tilting. I’ve suggested that more of the grip should be focused on the base of the bow - but as with left-hand position, I feel that in only two months I should probably just make suggestions rather than try to enforce new techniques...
We realise that this is a very heavy blog and heartily apologise. We promise our next entry will be less poncy and boring.
On a less serious note, recent highlights include:
· Viktor being tagged in photo on Facebook as an Indian girl (- It’s because of his beautiful swooshy hair, says Grace).
· Grace getting biting ants in her knickers.
· Drinking Chai for two rupees at the street corner.
Viktor and Grace