Monday, December 26, 2005

Piano culture: Singaporeans are so musically inclined!

If we start gathering statistics on the number of Singaporeans who have 'officially' learnt piano, I am quite sure that the statistics will be rather impressive. In Singapore, learning piano is part of the culture among a sizable portion of the middle-class! So the question I've been asking myself is: are Singaporeans really so musically inclined? Do we really have so many aspiring Melvyn Tan's? Do we truly love piano music so much?

From what I've observed over the years, in Singapore, piano learners are not really learning the instrument out of true love for it. Most of the learners are really young when their parents find piano teachers for them, and many of them seriously wish to give up this time-consuming 'extra-curricular activity' when they reach their teenage years, when their schoolwork gets more harrowing and their interest in the instrument wanes. Unfortunately, these parents do not really care whether their children like the piano or not. In fact, they don't care at all! But they will still force their children to go through this ritual for several reasons.

Firstly, many of them have not had the chance to learn the piano when they were young. Chinese cultures all over the world are like that: the older generation will always try to make the younger generation do what they had wanted to do in their time but did not get the chance to. Secondly, the piano is an instrument with 'class', so learning it confers some of the associated prestige to the family that has a child learning it, regardless of the reason for learning it or the actual capabilities of the 'pianist within the family'. Parents are usually quite proud when their kids practise the piano, since the neighbours can certainly hear the piano music which is quite loud compared to the music produced by other instruments. Even if the guitar were to have equal prestige as piano, people will probably still choose piano, because the latter can be heard much more clearly and thus the family does not need to go out of the way to 'advertise' that fact to the neighbours. It is not 'music' that the family-with-piano prizes, but the 'face' or 'mianzi' that this activity confers that it is attempting to gain...

But parents are not entirely to be blamed. Another reason why I think that piano learners in Singapore are not truly passionate about piano is that they can't be! The piano-education system here is flawed, for it mirrors the education system in general in terms of its exam focus. In Singapore, the ultimate credentials-focused society in the world, piano learning has mutated from a leisurely activity done out of musical appreciation into a stressful activity done out of the motivation to collect yet another certificate. Someone I know once told me that the reason why he wants his children to learn piano is that they can have an additional skill to make a living if the economy is not doing well. Gosh!

The focus is on passing exams of one grade after another, all the way to Grade 8 or even Diploma (LTCL, ARCM, etc). With this kind of focus, it's not surprising that the child's love for the music is eventually knocked out by the boring exam pieces, the 'scales', and other exercises that the child has to master in order to pass the exams. The compulsory Baroque piece that one has to play at every grade (for example, J.S. Bach, Haydn, Handel, etc) is usually not melodious at all, and certainly a great pain to practise (unfortunately, the two other pieces of different genres are usually not the nicest-sounding pieces in the world either, unless one is extremely lucky). And having to practise two to three uninspiring and not-exactly-melodious pieces daily after many tiring hours at school can really drive a teenager crazy.

It's also hard to find a stimulating piano teacher in Singapore. Many are teaching piano for the money, not out of real love for imparting this art to the children. Of course, they are probably also disillusioned after seeing so many disinterested children who have been 'forced' to learn the piano by their parents. How many will actually teach beyond the exam syllabus of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)? Not many will, I reckon. And it's not surprising because I would do the same too if I were in their situation, having to face the pragmatic parents who will scream should their precious and obviously 'talented' child fail the exam ("What?! I'm paying you so much money every month and he can't even pass his exam?? Then why are you wasting his time by teaching him these pieces which are not in 'the syllabus'?!").

Thus, the piano culture in Singapore is warped. It's parents-driven, exams-focused, and certificate-oriented. Perhaps parents should seriously consider thrice before insisting that their children learn the instrument, or let the children decide for themselves when they are older (say, 11-12 years old). It's really a heavy commitment in terms of finances, time, and energy. It may be cool to boast to your friends that your child can play the piano, but if you really think about it, despite the tens of thousands of dollars spent on learning the instrument, how many people with the Grade 8 certificate actually do continue playing it when they have crossed all the hurdles? Isn't it a waste to learn the piano if one stops playing it immediately after passing all the exams? Isn't it silly to play nothing but the exam pieces for 10 years of one's piano education? This reflects a mentality that is antithetical to the spirit of music learning. Somehow, I feel that Singapore's culture of pragmatism is so pervasive that no area of activity is spared. So the piano, despite all its beauty, similarly denegerates and mutates into a torturous tool for social comparison, prestige enhancement, authoritarian exercise of parental power, and credentialling for an uncertain economy. Which is sad, really......


Blogger Molly Meek said...

How to get out of this? The music idiot that I am, I wish my parents did get me to learn piano or things like that. It's amazing how, on the one hand, parents are making kids learn to play the piano while, on the other hand, kids are also taught to dismiss music classes in school because... well, they don't affect exam results.

Mon Dec 26, 11:47:00 PM 2005  
Blogger trisha said...

Molly Meek : You've hit the nail on the head! I cannot emphasize enough how discouraged music teachers in schools are cos students just couldn't care less becos there are no exams for music.

The same can be said for ballet, violin, swimming lesson which many parents enrol their kids in. Then if their kid grows up and says he wants to be involved in the arts, or be a pro swimmer or something like that, the parents say there's no future in these fields (=cannot earn a lot of $).

Makes me wanna smack these parents on the head!

Tue Dec 27, 11:40:00 AM 2005  
Blogger A.Ball.of.Yarn said...

haha...what an interesting post. what inspired you to write this 'piano culture' entry? ;)

it's a little like the learning of chinese. i find myself picking up more idioms out of school than during the times when I was forced to memorise them week in, week out. what made me do that? Tv dramas lor.

but time flies when we're kids in school, ya? ten yrs of compulsory education seems too short a time, and great a risk to take when you decide to spend it on cultivating interest.

Tue Dec 27, 01:03:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Greetings, everyone! Hope you've all had a wonderful X'mas :]

Molly Meek: Actually, piano is a good instrument to learn, BUT the learner must try hard not to be swept along by the exam syllabus. All learners of piano should find some time to play other pieces that are nice; there are so many beautiful piano pieces in the world (with interesting stories behind them or the composers)! If piano learning is a manifestation of a generalized love for music (e.g. shown by a great interest in listening to piano CDs, etc), then I would say 'go for it', since the person seems to be truly interested in the music and not the certificate. I also think that it's never too late to learn the piano. In fact, an adult can learn it much faster than a kid. I think 2 years should be enough....

Trisha: Yes, the twin pillars of Singapore mentality - (1) "No exams, so can't be bothered", and 2) "Don't go into something that won't let you make much money (no matter how good you are in it)". A Ministry for the Demolition of Pillars needs to be set up. These entrenched ways of thinking are really harmful to the nation in the long run.

A.Ball.of.Yarn: Thanks! :) Erm...I also dunno what inspired me...hehe

I think piano is a great instrument. If one learns it, it should be out of love and passion for it. Otherwise the piano will feel very sad :)

Tue Dec 27, 07:18:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Molly Meek said...

Molly is too musically dead to learn anything at her grand old age of ... no ... I mean her youthful age of 18. I will frustrate my teacher as much as tuition kids frustrate me.

Wed Dec 28, 12:44:00 AM 2005  
Blogger jeffyen said...

Interesting... I was given piano lessons at a young age, and my mum was smart enough to tell the teacher not to schedule the lessons around the exams. So I only have a Grade 1 theory, and never took another exam. Nowadays, I'm just self-taught, which is another way of saying, I enjoy playing 'rubbish' just for the fun of it!

I heard of his sad story once, one person had a grade 8 plus diploma or something, but hated the thing so much that after he got the qualitifation, he vowed never to touch the piano again...

I think this issue is one about 'values'. Unfortunately, it's not just a matter of piano lessons. It's also related to the tuition issue and other things that have to do with the problem of 'practicality'...

So anyway, the piano experience was not so bad for me. I had another Chinese teacher in primary who had a seditious 'screw the exams' attitude. He taught us Tang-dynasty poetry in class, and just skimmed through the main syllabus. I absolutely loved it!

Wed Dec 28, 02:37:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Xin said...

kevin kern~ :)

Wed Dec 28, 07:28:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Mr Wang Says So said...

I think that it's a good idea for kids to try out different kinds of activities to see what they really like. After some time, they will discover what they're really interested in and they can drop all the other stuff. Kids are all wired differently in the head - some will want to play the piano; others will want to play soccer or rugby; others will write short stories and poems; yet others will be inclined to paint pictures or take photos; others will want to lead the rest of the guys out on a mountain-climbing expedition.

I don't think that just being able to play the piano carries much social prestige in Singapore any more. There are already just too many people who can play the piano. Or rather, there are too many who would say, "Oh, I did it until Grade 8, then I stopped and never touched the piano ever again." :P

Thu Dec 29, 11:39:00 AM 2005  
Blogger The Void Deck said...

I think it is great that kids can balance their lifestyle wants and devote some time to learning a musical instrument rather than spending all their time on DOTA or Painkiller. But why the herd-ish piano? Why not drums, electric guitar or no joke, harmonica?

There is this misguided prestige old school 'atas' label to piano, violin, ballet. I have a personal bias against piano lessons for children as pianos are expensive to buy I think and it takes up a hell of a space in the flat, unlike a violin or better, a harmonica. And then imagine moving house with a piano in tow.

Thu Dec 29, 12:05:00 PM 2005  
Blogger BL said...

Heavenly Sword,

Here are my two cents worth. If I have a kid, instead of spending the money on a piano, I will engage a good harp teacher and buy a good harp for the kid to learn. Cost will not be the issue for me. For that matter, instead of picking up a western music instrument, she can pick a chinese one like the gu-zheng. Look, there is no unique selling point for being a pianist, but there is a competitive advantage in being a harpist.

Of course, at the end of the day, I can't really decide the interest for my kids. They have to decide what they want in life. Putting them to learn something is more like giving them some headstart in things. I did not come from a rich family. When I was studying in UK, I do envy some of my friends who are talented pianists performing in recitals and wish that I have learned that. It works both ways. Some people do not appreciate what they get easily, and some people appreciate what they do not get easily.

Thu Dec 29, 12:44:00 PM 2005  
Blogger jllt said...

I used to learn the piano when I was about 5 and I loved it. But I had a terrible teacher who wanted my parents to pay her when SHE went on holidays. At that time, it was something we could ill-afford and she was only my teacher because of the proximity; mum could not spare the traveling time with 4 kids on her hands.

I had to stop out of practicality. What a rubbish teacher.

Thu Dec 29, 12:55:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous JK said...

Learn piano so that can skip NS!!!

Fri Dec 30, 12:17:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Dene said...

Very interesting entry, something i can reconcile with. I learnt piano when i was abt 8(influenced by my sis), managed to complete till Grade 7 until the whole process takes a toil on me and i just stopped altogether. The practical exams were horrifying and extremely stressful for a young kid to bear and on top of that i could only remember that i was playing pieces "in preparation" for the exams. Thus i didnt enjoy learning piano at all. I guess there is something wrong somewhere. Yet i never regret learning piano as it is a skill that will be with me forever. If i had a choice, i will learn it again but with a wholly different attitude.

Fri Dec 30, 12:26:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Wow, greetings everyone!

Molly Meek: 18 is very young! I had thought that Molly is a bit older than that...(e.g. 25) :]

Jeff: Ah, a self-taught pianist! Cool! I agree that it's related to many other factors which you've mentioned...So, what pieces do you play? :)

Xin: Yeah! I really like Kevin Kern's music. Deeply enchanting...! :)

Fri Dec 30, 12:29:00 AM 2005  
Blogger aH.bao said...

Woah, a really well written piece about the situation. Cant agree more! I love Kevin Kerns pieces too! especial through the arbor and remembering the light! ;)

Fri Dec 30, 12:40:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi Mr Wang: I would agree that it's good to try out everything...The only obstacle is the $$ :) Heavenly Sword has a piano Grade 8 cert hanging on the wall, but I can't play anything now cos I haven't practised for years! So I'm one of those guilty ones...hehe :]

(But I do like the piano - it's just that I'm too busy to practise it nowadays...)

Hi The Void Deck: Hm..yes, the desire to have some 'musical' inculcation is commendable. But good qn! Why the lack of interest in other instruments? I think the flute is pretty cool, or the guitar...The flute reminds of Eastern Evil (东邪) in the Chinese wuxia shows... :) The guitar is also portable, and therefore more handy for young men going after ladies. Oops, I digress...

Fri Dec 30, 12:42:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous yl said...

Bravo!! i am a piano teacher and i like what i am doing.

my pet peeve?? the following words that certain parents love to ask,"teacher, when is she ready for exams?? i hope she can finish her grade as soon as possible." this type, i usually dun want to teach coz:
1) i happened to be in the age of no financial commitment, so i can afford the loss of income.
2) i dun want to be plagued by a guilty conscious.

in my music learning journey, i have gone through many teachers, some good, some... let's leave it as i dunno how to appreciate them. i have gone through the period of hating piano, pondering why am i learning piano, wat is like about piano, etc. it is practically like the various stage of a love relationship before deciding on marital bliss and of course, keeping the flame alit after marriage.

my parents do not let me learn piano coz of prestige. in fact, they never planned to let us learn piano. it was a tenant who request for a space in our living room to put his piano as the room he rented from us was just too small for a piano. his mom was the one who badgered my mom to let us learn piano and generously encouraged us to use their piano if the startup cost of a piano is too high for us. till this day, i still thank the generous auntie for that.

yes, piano/music has brought me anguish and pain, especially during those exams. but piano/music has also brought me much joys. it is, simply, a relationship i had cultivated.

Fri Dec 30, 12:49:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi BL: I like the idea! The leading harpist in Singapore is Ms Katryna Tan, who recently won an Arts Award. I have seen her play the instrument before - simply brilliant! I agree with your last sentence especially. Hence I recommend that parents wait until their child pesters them to let him/her learn the piano/other instrument, rather than force him/her to learn it when (s)he didn't express an interest.

Oh Jllt: What a mercenary piano teacher you had encountered! Not good at all! :[

Fri Dec 30, 12:57:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hello Jk: Welcome to HS's Manor. Hm...looks like there'll be more people taking up the piano across the whole country soon! :]

Hello Dene: Welcome to HS's Manor too! I wanted to give up when I flunked Grade 7, but my mother said I cannot "do things halfway" (ban tu er fei) and forced me to continue. In my case, I enjoyed Grade 1-3, then from Grade 4-7 started to feel that it's a bit meaningless due to the exam focus, then I started enjoying it again when I did my Grade 8. I actually passed Grade 8 without passing Grade 7 - it's possible, you know? ;)

Hello Tootkiaz: Yeah! :) The few pieces that were once frequently played at the MRT stations are really nice too! Yanni is another New Age pianist I like - very enchanting (especially his piece 'Until the Last Moment' and 'Reflections of Passion'). For those who like 'fiery' type of piano, I recommend MakSim, especially his CD 'A New World'.

For classical, the ultimate piano concerto is Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto (played by leading pianist Martha Argerich), which I like as much as Schumann's Piano Concerto (played by leading pianist Alfred Brendel). Franz Liszt's 'Obermann' (played by Brendel) is brilliant too - very sad and romantic. On the whole, I like sad pieces, the sadder the better!!

Fri Dec 30, 01:12:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi Tootkiaz: oops, forgot to say 'Thanks' for the compliment and welcome to my obscure little blog! :)

Hey YL: I like your analogy! Piano learning is really like going through a relationship. I went through 3 phases too (as described earlier): part I, part II, and part III. Narrowly passed my Grade 8 and my interest in the instrument surged once I was free from the piano-exam pressures! (That was during my A-levels.) Then during NS, when I booked out of my army camp every weekend, I'll play the piano for hours at home (cheaper and more fun than going to Orchard Road)!

So, do you teach the Diploma level?? :] HS looking for piano teacher!

Fri Dec 30, 01:21:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous yl said...

hahaha... i am working for my own diploma!! put it off for a long time coz, its just so fun to do repertoire outside exams... but now, cant put it off anymore coz... sigh... parents!! other people's parents!! kids' parents these days want their kiddie's teachers to be diploma and all, whether or not the dip holders is interested in teaching. so i am finally putting plans to work on my diploma... after 5 years of teaching and 10 years after getting my g8!! :P

Fri Dec 30, 01:29:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi YL: haha, that's so true..One day the parents are gonna ask for all the piano teachers to have at least a D.Mus. degree plus FRCM, FTCL etc to teach their Grade 1 kids! :]

Fri Dec 30, 02:14:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous j said...

I'm glad my parents got me to learn piano, or I'd never have discovered my passion for music. Maybe I'm just lucky that I had really good teachers who didn't just stick to exam pieces and were able to fuel my passion once they realised I was genuinely interested.

But I agree that if the child is not interested it's no use to force him to continue lessons. I once had a student who didn't seem interested at all but her mother was all too anxious to see her take exams.

Parents are actually in a difficult position, they're probably stuck between not making their kids go for swimming, piano, ballet etc and making them learn all these things. If you make them go for lessons, it's too stressful and tiring for them. But if they don't go for lessons, how will you know if they're interested? There are so many 'what if's. I suppose it's alright to let them try all sorts of activities, and quit those they dislike, but not pressure them to take exams and stuff unless they really want to.

Fri Dec 30, 07:41:00 AM 2005  
Blogger juz_A_ga| said...

My situation was similar. I learnt the piano 'cos my parents made me at age 4. In primary 6 I neever practised and was given the choice to continue or give up.
After choosing to continue (dunno why also), I went on to Sec 1 and finally came out of my tortoise shell. I didn't know that many people actually had no background on music at all. I realised how privileged I was to have learnt the piano. From then on, I started to appreciate music, the opportunity to learn and did so till I got my diploma.

Too bad, alot of people who know me ask why I do not be a piano teacher - because of the good money. To me, the diploma was just a piece of paper. I'm thankful to having a good teacher and that although the baroque and 20th century pieces were truly pains in the ass, they opened my eyes and ears to stuff I never would've explored on my own and learn to appreciate.

I no longer have a piano in my house due to space constraints but I'm looking for a clavinova. I'd like to continue playing pieces of my interest as I've always been. I'm willing to teach anyone who's willing to learn - as long as time permits. The piece of paper doesn't mean I'm good at the instrument. Just like how getting a degree is not going to prove I'm any smarter.

Thanks for this post. :O)

Fri Dec 30, 08:36:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous yl said...

HS: hahaha... and soon they would be getting uni profs to teach their darlings what is 1 + 1!! :P but sometimes, i think it seriously boils down to the attitude of the teachers themselves. i have met grade 8 teachers who are still very interested in music and seek to constantly upgrade themselves by attending concerts/masterclasses/seminars/etc.

i have also met diploma teachers who are hmmmm... more interested in maths - application of a funny formula to explain why students need to pay for their prolonged disappearence.

Fri Dec 30, 10:09:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Dom said...

As an amateur musician, I have to say that the piano is really a key instrument to learn. Knowing how to play the keyboard in general allows you to segue into more modern musical arrangement. Music theory is much more straightforward with the piano since all the notes are actually laid out in front of you in a linear fashion. It's also one of the few instruments that can hold its own, solo, at a relatively low skill level.

The piano is an excellent place to start. (All this talk about going for the harp is IMHO just faddish and going back to the achievement-based mindset. Just because a harpist won a national award, that vindicates playing the harp? Surely not.) Just don't make your kid do the exams. Go with pop songs and a basic level of theory. That should be enough to make playing fun.

Fri Dec 30, 10:28:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Frederico said...

I myself was 'forced' to learn the violin 'professionally' from 7 until 17 , when i finally quit.
My love for playing the piano was genuine though... coz i learnt it on my own from 13 until now . ;)
So, true piano lovers are still around!
Check out my podcast.


Fri Dec 30, 10:56:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Mr Wang Says So said...

I think that attentive parents will probably not have that much difficulty discovering what their kids like. You can start to tell from quite an early age. It's all in their everyday behaviour.

I have one young toddler who loves banging on the toy xylophone and the toy drum and dancing to music. I have another young kid who loves to read books and learn new words. My little niece loves crayons and colouring pencils and drawing pictures.

The clues are all there, in their everyday behaviour.

Piano is good for understanding music theory, but violin is better for training the ears.

Fri Dec 30, 11:52:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous freakkler said...

I'm a non-pianist/violinist etc etc as I fought hard against my parents' will when young. A bit of regrets as I kinda observe that music is tied to IQ ...

based on my fellow frens in a NUS special program. Out of us, (I ACTUALLY DID A SURVEY OF EVERYONE IN MY BATCH, 25ppl), ...everyone learnt music except myself.

I'm def. gonna make my child learn!!! unless he/she can convinced me otherwise, be it misbehavior or anything else.

Fri Dec 30, 03:59:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Greetings, everyone :]

J: It's indeed a dilemma...Actually there are 2 other balancing acts: (1) exams may be useful for some people. Without the exams, they might not have enough motivation to practise hard...(2) how does a parent decide whether to let the child off if the child seems to be losing interest? It's not exactly a good thing to cultivate a habit of 'giving things up easily at the slightest sign of difficulty'. Dilemma... My conclusion: great determination and at least some GENUINE interest are needed to see a person through several years of piano education (I guess this applies to other instruments as well.)

Juz_a_gal: You can get a digital piano :] I'm thinking of getting one too, if I do manage to escape poverty eventually. Digital pianos are esp. useful because one (1)can use headphones and won't disturb the neighbours, (2) (related to first point) can play at night, (3)doesn't have to feel 'paiseh' for practising the same piece a million and one times to 'get it right'. :] (Btw I know of a lady in her 30's who wishes to learn it for fun - would you like to coach her?)

Fri Dec 30, 06:52:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi YL: Yeah, the piano teacher makes a GREAT/CRITICAL/HUGE/AMAZING difference. Life and death issue. Advice to people interested in learning: must find a good one. I recommend YL...hehe

Hi Dom: I agree fully with your 1st para, and the last 3 sentences of your 2nd para. I'm not sure about the first part of the 2nd para due to my lack of knowledge of macro-level harp-learning trends in SG. My own guess is that if a person decides to go for the harp, it'll probably be due to its relative 'novelty' in Singapore compared to the piano (which is more common here).

Fri Dec 30, 07:04:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Oops, need to go out for a romantic date now...Will post my replies to other comments when I come back! :)

Fri Dec 30, 07:08:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Back from romantic date...shall continue with my replies :)

Aha Mr Wang, I thought the violin is bad for the ears! :] Guitar is better for the ears; more soothing...besides, u can play for your loved one and sing romantic songs. Ain't that cool?

Aha Freakkler: Is music tied to IQ? That's new to me! hehe :) You shouldn't force him/her, I think - it may have serious repercussions. My mother forced my sister, and for 25 years they were like enemies because of the piano! Why don't you get him/her to learn the flute? Can use it for self-defence purposes too; dual purpose, therefore more value for money... :]

Fri Dec 30, 08:52:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous yl said...

mr wang: i beg to differ the statement that for piano students dont have to listen. hmmm, true that for piano, we cant do anything much if the piano is out of tune. but when we play the piano, we have to use various touches to coax a more interesting sound and texture from the piano and music.

but in Singapore, i have to agree that the mentality is: dont need to listen one!. why?? coz as long as the student learn enough to play the pieces and go for exams, who cares about listening to the touch and quality of the sound produced?? who cares about the bad posture that the student is sitting would hurt the student's wrists/back/shoulders/hand/etc?? in fact, i honestly don't even think some teachers is aware of this aspect of piano education called posture and ergonomics. mention posture, they get the notion of a stiffly sitting human. mention ergonomics, they relate it to computers... :S

Fri Dec 30, 10:00:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Lam Chun See said...

Interesting discussion. Can I offer a parent's perspective.

My wife 'forced' all my 3 children to learn piano. She told them she always wanted to learn piano as a child but never got the chance; so wanted to make sure they don't miss the chance to discover any hidden love or talent. Anyway, we don't emphasize grades. Even asked the piano teacher to teach less exam pieces and add some pop tunes.

In the end, 2 dropped out. Only my eldest continued to play simply for the love of it. Went on to learn yang qing too.

If you don't mind my saying so, on the whole I think you guys are a little too harsh on your parents.

Fri Dec 30, 10:52:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi Frederick: Apologies for missing out your comment earlier (i scrolled down the page with the mouse too quickly!) Two instruments must have been tough on you! But I must say you're good to have been able to master both. You deserve a few pats on the back. And yes, I believe you're genuinely interested in the piano since you even have podcasts :) Btw I tried to listen to the podcasts, but no sound...

Hi Mr Lam: It's must be a consolation that at least one of them still plays it :) (Imagine if ALL THREE give up...)

Sat Dec 31, 12:09:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous freakkler said...

Juz_a_gal: I tot this part of what she said makes sense...
"..although the baroque and 20th century pieces were truly pains in the ass, they opened my eyes and ears to stuff I never would've explored on my own and learn to appreciate..."

As a child, naturally we will be underexposed to the many wonderful things out there. The crux of this exposure is dependent on parents. E.g. if one's parents do not have a wide range of activities, a child would not know the beauty of many things compared to another child.

Forcing onto the child may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Yeah..but like Heavenly Sword sagely advice, gotta weigh the pros and cons as a parent in the unforseeable future. Benefit the kid vs potential parent-child r/s breakdown. Sighzzz...

Sat Dec 31, 03:20:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous freakkler said...

Heavenly Sword: it's not a true survey but ..the statistics and anecdotal evidence as gleemed from these peers of mine (i'm NOT basing juz on academic powress btw), they have many talents far-ranging.
Oh well, could be coincidence that everyone of them learns piano but 96% of respondents is quite unlikely. Paiseh for lng-windedness, but YES, I THINK MUSIC HELPS IQ. & possibly gotta start young lah

=) Happy Hols

Sat Dec 31, 03:26:00 AM 2005  
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Blogger Jolly Jester said...

Heavenly Sword: Just a small little nitpick on your Jin Yong, the Eastern Evil does not actually play the flute, its actually the Xiao(箫)

As to whether piano/violin improves your ears, I think Mr Wang is refering more to training of the musical ear. The piano does help A LOT in the learning and recognition of chords/harmony. As for intonation(whether you are in tune or not), I think it can both ways, either the bo-chap student on the piano just play and never really listening to what he's playing(since the piano is always in tune) or you can develop perfect pitching if you do really listen out for the notes, which is very useful for other instruments that require intonation like violin, wind instruments, etc.

I agree that the teacher makes a very important difference, especially in the formative years of a student's training in any field(academic, arts, sports). This I think is doubly true in the Singaporean environment, for most students are attuned to spoonfeeding, and thus the teacher is their only exposure to the thing they are learning. Like say a piano student enjoys pop, but how many of them will actually really search for pop pieces to play on the piano, or even ask their piano teacher for it?
Which is why I think people who are self taught retain their interest in the instrument better.

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Blogger Xin said...

haha....i actually didnt pass grade 7 and ended up passing grade 8 too....and it didnt happen just once, but twice.. so nothing is actually quite impossible uh...

cello playing in the past in singapore was taken up by a relatively few. 10 yrs ago when i started playing it, i saw nearly the same people at nearly every western/chinese organisation.

these days, so many people are picking the instrument up... and soon, who knows, you'll next see a piano/violin/cello competition and find the next cello prodigy?

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Blogger juz_A_ga| said...

I would like to teach anyone who is willing to learn - but my timetable does not allow me to do so now. I have a day job and night classes. The only time I can do so is after my exams (which leaves only the month of june). :O)

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Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi paiseh, late reply. Was pissed off with some stuff. Sigh...


Dear Xin: hm....Your case is same as mine? That's interesting. I dunno much about Cello...but you can enlighten me! :)

Dear Juz_a_gal: Ah...only June? Then I think cannot le...Anyway, I've asked her to try Yamaha Music School...Should be quite good, I guess? :)

Fri Jan 06, 01:59:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi Jolly Jester:'re right, it's the Xiao(箫) -- but what are the differences between the Western flute and the Xiao? They seem quite alike to me...except perhaps the material :)

I agree with what you said....Pop music/tunes can stimulate one's interest...By the way, do you happen to know if the piano score for "My Date with a Vampire III" is available anywhere in this world (or cyberspace)? :]

Fri Jan 06, 02:05:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Jolly Jester said...

The most visible difference between the xiao and the flute(both chinese and western) is that it is played vertically(like the way you hold a recorder). The flutes are played horizontally to the mouth.

Of course material wise xiao and chinese flute is made of bamboo while western flute is made of metal. The xiao and western flute may sound alike to an untrained ear though... usually the xiao has more 'wind' sound than the flute.

Unfortunately I have no idea about the score of the Date with Vampire song... But if you can actually find midi/hp ring tones of the song you might be able to extract a score out using certain computer software.

Fri Jan 06, 10:01:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Thanks for the analysis re flute v siao. Thanks for the brilliant suggestion on how to get the score from the mobile ring-tones too. Great idea!

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Blogger yc said...

I love this entry! I know of people who learn music by themselves and for the genuine love of music. Their standards are on par if not better than those who been through formal lessons. I truly admire such people for their unwavering passions. =)

I'm posting your entry on my blog, with full acknowledgements to you. =))

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Thanks, YC :)

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