Actually, you yourself are the one who teaches you how to make music, through the attention you give to it. I give a route and tell about the music, open a number of possibilities. I provide knowledge, but you play the instrument yourself.
The lesson is meant to help you look at whether you are standing in your way, have not understood your body posture, how to put your fingers on the piano, how you want to play the music. Whether you demand too much from yourself.
You can also stand in the way by the latter.
Certainly adults really need to be patient with themselves. Because you often have a huge picture in your head of what you would want. Probably, because otherwise you do not want to play such an instrument – piano – at all.
You think that’s what I want, but then you have to go all those little steps and that patience you need, with yourself, and then also find pleasure in those little steps. Because having fun continues to be paramount.
That is often easier for children. Because they are less result-oriented. Unless they are too influenced in that respect, by parents or other teachers. Children are even more playful and they like every step.
So children like those little steps, while an adult often thinks, “Oh, I still can not play the piano perfectly, and how do you keep having fun that way?” I think that’s my strength – helping people with that.
And if you do not succeed, then you should talk about it. Dare to say it, because you also lose fun by not being involved with it.
So you also help yourself by talking about it regularly.
If you do not do that, you lose your motivation.
Then you think after all this time I still can not play perfectly. So when you come home after class – then do something with what you learned that day so that you do not forget it. This also applies to children. You have to do something about it, it does not happen by itself. But actually that applies to all things of value. That they will not go automatically. You can not say: ‘I pay a few bucks to that lady and then I can make music’. No. The beautiful things in life, they do not come naturally.
So you have two things, making music and the regularity that you need for that. And if people have talent then they can do all two very well. The point is that you do not experience that as coercion. Putting yourself on something that you do not feel good about.
So I understand very well that students do not want to make it their profession or their lives, but still want to have fun in making music.
How do you do that? is the question then. With a certain degree of regularity and with a certain degree of musicality, which everyone has.
I once read a book about a man who played every day and therefore could play any piece that he wanted to play over time. If you would do that as an amateur pianist – that’s so important.
In fact, it is a form of brain training.
What I find important in those lessons, so important that I also want to pay special attention to that, is that you are on your way as a person to feel free and to make music. Especially adults.
For example, at one point I had a student who could not relax properly, and then making music is actually very difficult. Because a part of your body has to be very loose. Your wrists must be loose. Otherwise you are physically in the way. The latter is sometimes a mental aspect. That also affects other aspects of your life. Then it is important to incorporate relaxation exercises. Not only for your piano playing, but also for your ordinary life. And do not make such gigantic demands. For example, you do not want to take a new piece every two weeks. Why do you need a new piece every week? You are making music. And even if you do it for three months, you always get something new out of it, that’s great too.
My lessons are different with adults than with children.
I like to teach novice adults. From 18 years and on average advanced. Not really advanced, because I am especially good at helping people on their first steps. The first five years of piano lessons.
I also teach people from the very beginning, without ever doing anything about music. Because children are more than adults playful, it’s something new for them and so it’s fun. I work a lot with fantasy images, with children.
Because I work very personally, with tailor-made work, I prefer very strongly, and if a child likes cats for example and also has cats, we will work with cats. I also have two cats myself and one of them is black and white and I call it the piano cat. We work what a cat does, and then play it on the piano. A cat that spins and a cat that jumps, pounds and sneaks, and how are we going to let that sound like that. And the whole piano is part of that.
While, as I used to have piano lessons, that was in one place with one hand. And then – this must also be learned, because it is quite difficult to learn that, but I do not start with that. I start with: the whole piano is yours, and then start from an image of what lives inside that child. So from their own world.
It is quite a lot that you have to learn: notes, how that corresponds to those keys, note values, rhythm, time signatures. That is very theoretical, so that must be playful. And I let them walk through the room. Because walking is also a measure. And then practice rhythms and by doing so you experience what it means.
Note values for example – quarters are this (claps) and twice as fast are the eighths. This can also help with adults. A pupil of mine is a real techie and he said to me: ‘I am going to make music to become loose’, and then I said: ‘OK, then we will move you through the room’. He liked that. So when someone says: ‘I am so stuck in a certain frame of mind, then I know what to do’.
It is very good to start feeling from your body.
Because you can feel a certain beat that is in a piece of music. Then you do not have to sit down and think about it, you just feel it. That also has a relationship with my old profession eurythmics. And rhythm is there to give you a musical basis through your body. There is already a regularity in all kinds of movements of your body. Walking, and in the swinging of your arms is also a cadence. So you can rely on that.
Music and movement are so close together that it has the same terminology and dynamics. Everything that is in music is also in dance, for example. And if you feel the music in your body, it becomes easier to play it. Some people find that scary, and then I’m not going to force that. I make a personal lesson program. Or someone has to say that he or she wants to try it. You can always try, but what I do with children or adults is custom work.
The longest time that I have worked with someone is twelve years. Then I said at one point: ‘you have to go look for someone else’. I know you now. She did not want to. “I want you,” she said, but I said, “No, you really have to leave now, that’s better for you.” We still have contact and I sometimes get postcards from her and she has found a good successor.
You can get a trial lesson with me, or a trial period, that’s possible too. Sometimes people find out that they had an image that did not turn out to be correct. Then it stops. And some children sometimes do not last long, I think that’s a shame. Because children need their parents. They really need to be helped by their parents to practice at home. Fathers and mothers have to really help their child, because a child can not do that by themselves. Practicing every day is really an exception.
And also listen to your child and say ‘that’s great!’ You need that as a child at home. You also need that as an adult, but you can give that stimulus yourself a little better. But children certainly need that.
I had one child who had learned a song: Mieke has a lamb … and I heard from her mother that she had been playing – Mieke had a lamb, lamb, little lamb – with three fingers everywhere, wherever there was a piano. And she is so proud that she can do that. But she does not practice at home herself, no she does not. So to get the pleasure by practicing something yourself and then to notice at a given moment, I can do it. These are things that children do not yet know.
To overcome something, you have to put yourself in that something.
Attention, time, and when it is going to bloom and grow, that is a wonderful experience. Then you really get something. You can’t buy that. We live in such a merchant society, so you sometimes have to learn people again to embrace another attitude. Children, and young people too, by being there every week.
You are going to discover such an enormous power, your power, because you are going to get it, and that is such a wonderful experience, very nice. But often they do not come that far, it is sometimes difficult for parents to stimulate without coercion.
It is just like with love – when you care and pay attention to something, you give love, but love also arises. And you get that back too. Also love for yourself. Caring for something or someone generates love. So care and attention and love is the same, and then I find it so unfortunate to see that people today think so often that they can become happy with just buying things.
Of course people do not just let themselves be covered, but it is a very strong trend. Everyone wants money and stuff. I was in Nepal once and in a shop all American T-shirts were first row and those beautiful Nepalese clothes were at the back. Such a development is so very much mainstream. And you’re a stranger in our midst if your outlook at life is differently. So I think a certain form of idealism is great. Because people do not just let themselves be ignored. Precisely because of care and attention. – More about Bertine: www.dehelepianoisvanjou.nl. >
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