Honey Bear’s tips

Honey Bear

This is me. I am a Shetland Sheepdog and I love music. After twelve years listening to Margee teach and students play, I am full of bright ideas.

A pause for paws.  Paws–I have four of them.  Think of your hands as paws.  Above the keyboard relax the hand like I relax my paw, then spread your hand over the keys just like my paw spreads as I put it down onto the floor.  Feel your arm weight sink into the keys just like I feel my weight sink into the floor.

Emotional barking.  My masters say they can tell what’s going on outside by the way I bark when I see something or someone outside.  For example, if I see a dog across the street my bark is like “There’s a dog across the street.”  If I see the mailman I circle at the mail slot and there’s an underlying growl in my bark.  When a piano student approaches my bark is higher in pitch and I run back and forth in from of the window.  If a squirrel teases me I have a growl/bark and I jump up and down.  Now…if the turkey herd parade comes up the driveway, well….I go ballistic.

What does this have to do with you at the piano??  It means putting your heart into your music like I bark from my heart.  Don’t settle for mezzo blah.  If it says forte play strong; if it’s pianissimo play like you’re sneaking up on a squirrel.  If your music is a dance–do a happy dance on the keys with a smile on your face.

Sing as you play!  I often hear Miss Margee tell students to sing as they play; sing words, make up words, or even sing the note names.  Some students think this is difficult to do but if my dog friend can do it so can you!  Don’t miss this  great dog video

You know what I like about spring? Actually there are lots of of things:

  • Snow doesn’t get caught in my paws when I go outside.
  • There are 1,000 new smells with spring flowers and trees blooming.
  • I’m one month closer to my birthday!

What I like even better?!! Best of all, is seeing student’s hand positions look more and more like my paws! Not a claw, not a board; but a paw–fingers rounded and relaxed with no caved in joints. Ah, what a sight!

Dog Show. DOG SHOW!
Last weekend there was a dog show in Spokane. To be a good show dog (and I should know because my sister went to Australia to be a show dog!) there are skills we Shelties have to have–like the proper way to stand, with our hind legs slightly back and our head held at just the right angle. We have to walk with a smooth prance and show calmness.
How is your Sheltie stance — I mean, piano posture?

  • Feet solidly placed on the floor.
  • Knees just under the piano.
  • Elbow and forearms level with keys.
  • Fingers rounded and bridge firm.
  • Shoulders relaxed and arms freely moving.

Check yourself at home and always practice your pieces with good piano posture.

Mindless Barking and Mindless Practicing Sometimes my name is “No, no, bad dog,” because I’m mindlessly barking. I have no particular thoughts in my head; I’m just barking. When you practice are you doing mindless repetitions or are you focused? Beginners: sing note names, finger numbers, or words. Every student: count out loud and make up a story to go along with each of your pieces so you have an emotional attachment to the music.

Happy new year! As chief (and only) pet of the music studio and as the new year begins, I offer my top 3 pet resolutions:
1. PASSION. Have you ever thought of the difference between barking and howling? I have started howling when the phone rings. What I notice is howling is far more musical than barking! Howling makes more of a melody and I can go from loud to soft just like a musical phrase.
**Have passion. When you play piano you can plunk on the keys or play with dynamics, emotion and flare!
2. PERSISTENCE. I must say, I’m pretty good at this one already; are you? About 45 minutes before my lunch I start pestering my master for food and keep pestering until I hear the musical sound of the food pouring into my food bowl.
**Be persistant. “Pester” a hard section of your music until you get it; until it’s easy to play.
3. PATIENCE. This is one I need to work on, especially when I get brushed. It takes soooooo long! I like it when the deed is done–I’m soft and fluffy–but the brushing is agonizing. Is there a part about practicing you don’t like?
**Be patient. The process (practicing) is important for the result; in your case a piece of music; in my cases, a beautiful fur coat.

Music is in the Air. I’m so lucky to hear holiday music every day!!  You, too, can hear beautiful music and, not only piano music.  Check out Music Department websites for EWU, Gonzaga and Whitworth, The Fox or the Bing and take in a a holiday concert or two!

I’m a morning dog  so I bark in the morning.  Are you a morning person?  Then, that is the best time to practice.  Set aside a specific time to practice every day.  That’s what I do with my barking routine!!

Paws, not claws. If your fingers are rigid or stiff with the anxiety of trying to get the right notes at the right time, it will be much more difficult to get it right. A relaxed hand is much easier to get to the right place at the right time.  My paws are always relaxed so I can get to where I want to go!

I don’t just bark.  I bark with meaning!  Don’t play the notes; play the meaning of the notes.  Are they mysterious, happy, forceful, quiet . . . think about what you want to express.  I bark with excitement when it’s time to eat; but I bark with a whine when it’s time for bed.  Express what you are feeling!

Sing!!  That’s right–sing!  I have started to sing (and howl) and bowwowser do I feel good when I do! It gets oxygen deep into my lungs and helps me express myself.  It will help you as a pianist to improve your rhythm and phrasing.  It even boosts your immune system, energizes you and releases tension!!!