Playing the right notes – Neha Chawla
The piano is one of the world’s most popular instruments dating back to the 17th century. It is an ancient Italian instrument known for its melodious tunes and extended range of notes. There were many other key instruments, such as the Harpsichord, which looks very similar to the piano, and the Clavichord, that came much before the piano was invented; however, none were as popular as the piano is today.
The piano was different as it had a completely different build from the inside; instead of the plucking mechanism, it used a hammer. The pedal would move a hammer that hits a string, making a noise. The word piano comes from the word pianoforte, which means ‘quiet and loud’, as controlling the volume is very easy with a piano.
I’ve been taking classes from Ms Neha for over three years and have really enjoyed them. I’ve learned a lot of self-control and discipline along the way. As I come across more and more pieces, I start liking each one more than the other, so it’s hard for me to narrow down my favourite piece. Along with learning how to play pieces and preparing for exams, I also do a lot of music theory. Although I don’t really enjoy this part of music, it is very helpful.
Where and how it all began
I interviewed my piano teacher, Neha Chawla, a very successful teacher who runs the ALMA Academy in New Delhi along with her husband, Nikhil Chawla. They are both approved teachers from the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) and Trinity Boards for Piano and Music Theory.
She started playing the piano when she was only 10 years old. She started learning by herself and gained interest in the instrument. Even now, she loves playing classical music the most because it makes her happy, but she enjoys other genres of music too.
She recalls, “Although my parents never introduced me to music, they still supported me a lot. In fact, I owe a lot of my journey to my mentor Sir John Raphael for guiding me throughout my musical journey.”
Ms Neha started teaching professionally in 2007 with just 3 three pupils. Over time, that number has reached 45 students!
Challenges of being a piano teacher
“The most important and challenging part is to get the students to gain interest in the instrument,” admits Ms Neha. She feels that interest in music is important as it will motivate the students to continue practising after class.
To become a good musician, both the teacher and the student must be dedicated and have a commitment to learning piano. Ms Neha further adds, “While the student’s commitment must be to practice consistently, the teacher’s commitment must be to motivate the student and make sure they are always inclined towards the instrument.” That’s why Ms Neha ensures that the students pick the song that they want to learn, rather than the teacher choosing a song that the student may not like.
The perfect mentality for a teacher
Teachers come across many students. All of them are different from each other; therefore, the teacher must change their approaches based on the students. Ms Neha has students from age 4 to 80! According to her, “There is no age limit for when to learn an instrument. It’s just about the will to learn. Parents also must show support. I’ve come across parents who bring their kids from far corners of the city just for the piano lessons.”
How important is taking up a form of art?
We also discussed the importance of taking up performing arts as a child and also as an adult. She says, “It brings more balance in life; it brings more synchronization of one’s body and mind, as well as self-discipline. It also brings upon a career path.”
Tips for aspiring Pianists
Before we ended the interview, I asked Ms. Neha to share a few tips on how to go about one’s practice routine. She mentioned some key details that even she followed to date.
She says, “Whenever starting a new piece, one must always play hands separately first. Then join both hands with a metronome, as timing is a key aspect of music. Maintain a practice record to keep track of all your pieces, as it will help maintain a repertoire. Last but not least, one should listen to all genres of music!”
I believe that everyone should play at least one instrument throughout their lives. It will bring about a new hobby that both kids and adults can truly enjoy. Sometimes, it can also help someone find peace.
Contributor: Aarush Mohan
About our Writing Program Student
A teenager with a love for football and gaming, Aarush Mohan is a budding pianist and also plays the violin. He is currently teaching piano to an 8-year-old in his neighbourhood. This 8th Grader from Greenwood High International School, Bangalore has lived in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan.
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