NCKP 2013 (11) – Teaching Demonstration: Magic Not Required! By Catharine Lysinger

Th 2013 July 25 – Teaching Demonstration: Magic Not Required! How Planning and Persistence Produce Young Pianists, by Catharine Lysinger and featuring 6th grade student Natalie Grimes and mother Rhonda.

Broad Teaching Goals:
– To become nearly dispensable.
– Empower students to learn effectively.
– Build confidence for preparation and performance. Frequent performance allows this.

Long term goals include technique and theory through the Texas MTA programs. Repertoire is learned from various periods and performed.  Events: Monthly performance classes (by memory), recitals twice a year, theory exam, festivals.

Basic practice habits:
We need to spend more time teaching how to practice and not fixing. At the end of your lessons, ask yourself — how are your students going to fix the problems you are telling them about?  Did you teach them how they should practice the piece?

“3x3x3” practice technique = RH 3x, LH 3x, and together with counting.
“NRFAD” = Notes, Rhythm, Fingering, Articulation, Dynamics

We must build layers of artistry and make sure students are doing these things.

Dr. Lysinger showed a few video clips of Natalie playing the Beethoven Sonatina in G.

The first week, Dr. Lysinger gave the piece to Natalie without any introduction. The video a few weeks later showed Natalie with the piece hands together. Sometimes, as shown in the video, a week of sparse practice results in repeating last week’s lesson – and that is okay!

After 5 weeks, the piece is fluent, memorized, and only a little under tempo. Now is time for the tweaking. Topics discussed: balance and shaping. These concepts of musicality are introduced from the beginning. Musical playing is not only for advanced or college students.

A good question to ask: Do you know what you did? After some beautiful shaping, the student had trouble articulating what she did. After doing it again, the student listened more closely to her own playing and recognizing what she is doing.

Next, Natalie played the piece for us. She is about 10 weeks along. Dr. Lysinger encouraged her to speed up the tempo and increase the tempo further.

The next piece the student played was “Snappy” by Tony Caramia. The student would receive a very specific list of goals for the piece. There is no mystery involved!

Next, Natalie played a couple of scales slowly with the metronome – it is all abut tone and a horizontal moving arm at this stage as opposed to speed. Some weeks, the next key would be assigned while other weeks the same key would be assigned again.

Next, Four Star SR books. They clapped the two handed rhythm, played the scale for the key, “traced” the piece (ghost playing), LH alone, add RH.

The codified terms and acronyms make for a very efficient lessons. Counting and singing the melody helps with not only rhythm but with shaping.

The reading pieces are less polished while the 3-4 repertoire pieces each year are polished well.

Joy Morin is a piano teacher in northwest Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 1142 posts here.

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  1. David McNicol
    Posted 27 July 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for your posts from NCKP! I had hoped to attend this conference (travelling from Australia), and was very sorry when my plans failed to eventuate. Thanks again!
    David McNicol

    • Posted 28 July 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad you are enjoying the NCKP notes, David! Maybe I’ll see you in 2015.

  2. Amy Tsang
    Posted 3 October 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joy, I’m so glad you got to see Dr. Lysinger in action! Isn’t she just so positive, enthusiastic, and EFFECTIVE?! (By the way, her first name is Catharine — it is spelled with an A in the middle just like I’ve written. We know her…and Natalie…and Rhonda Grimes.) So glad I got to read your blog…and I actually know the people you wrote about! How funny is that!

    • Posted 4 October 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the correction, Amy! It is always so fun to see master teachers in action, isn’t it?!

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