Making Joyful Noises

Welcome to my one woman crusade for a new way to approach teaching piano to children.   For over thirty years I have kept my promise to myself and to the parents of my students to ensure that each child who studies music with me will love music for the rest of their life.

I don’t promise Carnegie Hall or international piano competition medals.  I don’t even give those much over-worked yearly recitals.  But my children will experience the joy of learning and by sharing with them my own experience as a concert performer, they get an opportunity to hear the best and most exciting music.  They learn in a fun and engaging way how to read the notes as fluently as words on a printed page.  And that is the secret to enjoying and actually playing the piano.  With that knowledge, they are far more likely to continue playing the piano for enjoyment in their adult years.

It is a sad fact that most children will take piano lesson for between two and four years  … most will never touch a piano after those lessons are over.  Most will not read notes.  At best they will maybe struggle through the ‘Fur Elise’.  Music lessons are only a tedious memory they’d rather forget.   Few will ever attend a concert or buy a classical CD.

This is tragic.   Music is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  It can and must be nurtured by teachers who are skilled not only in teaching methods, but in psychology and performance.

In these pages I will try to share with teachers some of the secrets I have learned over the years.  Some deal with music, some with subtle tricks of psychology.  But the results have proven astonishing and the Internet allows me a forum to send out these seeds and hope they will find fertile soil.

Just browse through the categories and you will find an array of tips for pianists of all levels, hints on teaching children, some of my own bavarcations on musical topics and  a few of my digital graphics tossed in over some You Tube clips  … mainly to hide my wild gyrations and gnarly fingers.

But above all, I want to offer some new pieces for beginning students which are composed in the classical tradition and which I hope may serve to fill in the bleak gap between the earliest tedious and boring student’s books and those wonderful gems by Clementi, Mozart. Beethoven and others.  This period is a vulnerable one in which many students become bored with the simple two voiced pieces, often composed by stuffy pedagogues merely as exercises.   By adding melody and careful harmonization of those simple voices, easy and beautiful pieces are possible.

Visit the happy piano professor’s new site to find many wonderfully melodic and easy pieces for students.  All are my original compositions

Feel free to download the scores.   I’ve provided a good high resolution and they should print nicely onto a standard 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper.  If you make copies to distribute, please acknowledge the source  …. which is me  ….  that Happy Piano Professor!

Nikki Kalanimalie Ty-Tomkins

12 Responses to Making Joyful Noises

  1. Art is never about competition and you seem to get the point so beautifully. I envy your students!

  2. Thank you for a web site with such great tips on keeping students interested in the piano.

  3. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post!

    It’s the little changes that make the largest changes. Many thanks for sharing!

  4. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was
    good. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

    • nikkitytom says:

      Cheers and thanks,

      Check out TheGleefulGuru, for topics outside the world of music. And for an entirely new world of digital graphics.

      But I still eat chocolate.

  5. Alice Siah says:

    Please keep writing.. We piano teachers need you. I totally agree with you with what you write. I learn and got my masters in pedagogy and looking back.. What is the meaning of all that time wasted in practicing and recitals. I’m currently striving to give experiences rather than rigid recitals. But I’m struggling to strike a balance in presenting joy in the preparations in exams, public performances. Without endless repetition of reminding technique and making musical phrases, the students dont play or learn the correct way. Thanks for writing, greetings from Portland, OR!

  6. Ghosthand says:

    Nice reading, Nikki. I believe you have already found my own piano blog, where I seem to share same thoughts as you about learning the piano. I am not a professional musician nor a teacher or anything: I just tell the story there how I found my way back to piano playing and what it means to me personally. I have made the whole journey you describe with piano lessons when I was a child, and when I decided to start all over again at the age of 45, I discovered that I was very alone … And my attitude, which wasn’t appropriately modest and “laid-back” but rather enthusiastic, was considered strange by people around me.
    My mission with piano playing is not to become a concert pianist star, but to show people that if I can do it, everyone can. Pianos used to be expensive and voluminous things that made a lot of noise. Today we have digitals that are suitable even in small apartments, and even if they are not the cheapest among instruments, you can afford a decent item with an average income. And they are so fantastically versatile, you can play any kind of music on them!

    I will be happy to follow your blog!

    • nikkitytom says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I did indeed visit your blog last night after reading your comments on Piano World … and recognizing a kindred soul. And I wasn’t wrong. But it was after midnight and I fluttered around looking for some way to “follow” and planning to click and then come back. But today I took the time to revisit.

      I chose “My Best Piano Teacher” and savored it. With simple tales of Jimmy you manage to touch so many things beyond teaching, so many things which are the secret to living with that inner joy, so rare today. And at the bottom of the article was the link to “follow”. Which I will do … with glee!

      I’m looking forward to taking each article one by one and enjoying them as a treat.

      I was interested to note your main field is applied physics … and now you feel the passion for music. I started with music and now without any background in math or physics, I discovered quantum physics and feel that same pull towards theories which are so beautiful, they restore my faith in some Universal Mind. I swing madly from the far reaches of the Cosmos to a world so minute that its component have never been seen. I am in awe. And I love “not knowing” because it offers me the possibility that one day I might know.

      Now I’m rambling as midnight approaches. I tried to download your piano pieces from Sound Cloud but alas, that site doesn’t work on my computer …

      I look forward to reading more of your articles. And cannot believe you write a second language so fluently and beautifully. Quite astonishing.

  7. Jessica Smith says:

    Hi, I really like piano and now looking to learn it. Is it a good idea to learn with the help of an online resource like this Like this piano program. Please tell should I go for it? Please also share any good piano program if you know about a good one for beginners or should I take piano classes? But the thing is piano classes are very expensive.

    • nikkitytom says:

      Aloha Jessica … This is a difficult question for me.  I am a classical pianist and specialize in Baroque music. Which is a totally different discipline than modern or popular genres of music.  Most of which rely on a variety of chord methods.  This type of playing give a lot of “bang for the buck”.  It’s relatively easy and with a handful of chords, you can get a lot of sound. 

      I checked on Pianoforall .. and it’s a very affordable program.     However from what I saw in the samples, you really do have to know where those notes are on the keyboard.  Fumbling around while looking at a video can be frustrating. You have to decide what genre of music you are interested in.  If it’s classical, there’s no way around it … you’ll have to learn to read the notes fluently for starters and this program won’t begin to tackle the details of classical piano.  
      You have to decide what you hope to get from the lessons.  If you want to play “Fur Elise” then it will take you at least three years and a lot of practice.  If you want to enjoy popular tunes and playing for friends, this program will give you a taste of making music.  And the program costs less than an hour of a top level piano teacher’s time.   

       Popular music is “popular”  …  it’s much more accessible to the student than classical and requires a fraction of the discipline.  Jam sessions are fun for the musicians who can riff and rap away and not worry too much about each note.  Orchestra rehearsals are definitely not fun. They’re exercises in coordinated discipline.  You have to love classical music heart and soul, to devote an enormous amount of time to it.     To be honest, sometimes in the late evening, I give myself a session of improvisation using chords. I produce cascades of notes running the length of the keyboard.  I add “compatible” melody notes and do a reasonable imitation of a slightly stoned Debussy.  But no jazz chords and no dissonance.     

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