improving as a teacher, Reading Notation, Teaching Piano

The Role of Intervalic Reading when Reading Music

A few weeks ago, I added a new game to my Shop called the Ice Cream Interval game.  In that post, I briefly mentioned the importance of being able to read intervalically when reading music and I’d like to discuss this further today.

blog-Teaching-Tip---Intervalic-Reading.png

While it is important for students to be able to identify the names of notes quickly, it is equally important for them to read intervals as early as possible in their studies.  While I am a big believer in drilling note-naming flashcards, I am an even bigger believer in drilling intervals.  Continue reading “The Role of Intervalic Reading when Reading Music”

Technique

Teaching Tip: Leaping Across on the Keyboard

blog Teaching Tip - Leaping Across the KeyboardEven from the beginning, the pieces in most modern piano method books require the student to move around the keyboard quite a bit.  Older piano methods (at least, the ones that utilize the Middle C reading approach) require the student to stay around the middle of the piano during the entire first level, or even further in some cases.  I’m glad modern methods require the student to move around the keyboard, because this because it helps student become familiar and comfortable with the whole keyboard from day one instead of inadvertently teaching the student that anything away from the middle of the piano is “hard.”

I’ve had parents notice and comment on this difference between older and newer methods.  They are surprised when their student needs to use the whole keyboard at their first lesson, because when they took lessons as a child, they remember playing around Middle C and never venturing to the extreme ends of the keyboard.

As an example:  The first four pieces in the Primer Level of the Faber Lesson Book require the student to play a simple pattern on the black key group of 2 or 3, and then to repeat the pattern twice, moving up an octave each time.  Other pieces throughout the series require students to play notes up or down an octave, especially at the end of the piece.  Other method books take a similar approach.

Often, to the student, making those leaps across the piano is the most challenging aspect of a piece.  They sometimes need to stop to think about where their hand needs to go.  Even if they know where their hand needs to go, they still might take some extra time searching the keyboard with their fingers to put the correct finger on the correct key.  This, of course, disrupts the rhythm of the piece.

How can we help students solve this problem? Continue reading “Teaching Tip: Leaping Across on the Keyboard”

Teaching Piano

Dynamics & The Beginner Piano Student

Music-forte-pianoWhen I was a 5-year-old beginner piano student, I remember being re-assigned one-/two-line method book pieces when the only thing lacking was dynamic contrast.  And I remember being frustrated with this.  My frustration was partly due to the fact that I was bored with the music I was playing; I wanted to be reading staff notation instead of pre-staff notation, as my mother taught me to do before she found me a piano teacher.  Regardless, having to re-practice pieces that were already mastered, due to forgetting to drop from forte-piano to piano in one place was a hard thing for me to swallow.

Looking back, I do realize the importance of dynamics.  As a teacher, I am a stickler about them even with the most beginner of students.  However, as tempting as it is, I do not generally reassign a beginning-level piece from a method book if the ONLY thing lacking is the dynamics.  I have decided that holding a student back in their progress is not worth it, because learning to observe dynamic markings is something that can be mastered over time through the next few pieces in their method books.   Continue reading “Dynamics & The Beginner Piano Student”

Motivation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Phrase: “I Think You Are Ready For…”

Here is a phrase I find myself use more and more lately with my students:

“I think you are ready for…”  

Imagine me saying it with plenty of enthusiasm.  This phrase comes in handy in a number of circumstances, such as:

  • “Wow, you’ve got all your 5-finger patterns learned, so I think you are ready to start scales!”
  • “You are playing each hand’s part so well…now you are ready to put hands together!”
  • “Great, I think you are ready to bump up the tempo!”
  • “I think Johnny is ready for 45-minute lessons!”

Watch your student (and his/her parent) swell with pride at that last one.  Saying that line sure beats a conversation that sounds like you are trying to justify or talk the parent into switching from 30- to 45-minute lessons.

It’s all in how you present it.  Learning scales or bumping up the tempo might at first seem like a chore, but presenting the next new challenge as an acknowledgement of their accomplishments and hard work can help motivate students for the next thing.  They’ve worked their way to this point, after all, and they should be proud of it!

So, try it!  And let me know what other circumstances you think of for using this phrase.  :)

Conferences, Group Classes, improving as a teacher

2011 OhioMTA Conference (4): Piano Pedagogy 101, by Marvin Blickenstaff

Here’s another session given by the well-loved pedagogue Marvin Blickenstaff from the 2011 OhioMTA Conference:

Piano Pedagogy 101: Reviewing the Basics

Mr. Blickenstaff introduced this session by commenting that at conferences and workshops, we often hear ideas for teaching intermediate and advanced students, but we don’t very often hear ideas for teaching beginners during that first year of piano lessons.  The purpose of this session to give a refresher of sorts and to provide new ideas for teaching beginners, particularly in groups.

Mr. Blickenstaff basically led us through a series of short activities that he uses during group classes with beginners.  He begins the first few classes with some icebreaker activities that all students can succeed doing.  These initial successes set the tone for the entire year!

Here are a few examples of some of the beginner-level icebreaker activities Mr. Blickenstaff likes to use with his students:

Continue reading “2011 OhioMTA Conference (4): Piano Pedagogy 101, by Marvin Blickenstaff”