Piano Lesson Video: Introducing a New Piece

I’m currently working on the projects required for becoming a NCTM (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music) through MTNA.  Of the required projects for piano, I think the video project is the most time consuming — so that is the project I’ve been focusing on first. As recommended by piano teacher profile projects workbook, I started recording some of my student’s lessons for a time just to experiment with camera options and camera angle.  I think I finally found the camera location that works the best, so I thought I’d show you a little clip from a recent piano lesson with my student, Liz.

There is an art to introducing a new piece to a student in a way that sets them up for success.  For example, we cannot assume that a beginner student will notice the time signature until we have taught them to check it with each new piece. We cannot expect the student to learn a piece well unless we have properly prepared the student’s experience for the rhythms, sounds, techniques, and reading that the piece requires.

In Liz’s case, she has been taking lessons for a year and she already has a pretty good handle on time signatures, rhythm, and note reading.  We are still working on developing technique for playing various types of articulations, becoming a fluid sight-reader, and playing expressively.  Liz is a faithful practicer and has been making very steady progress.

Many of you will recognize the piece in the video: It is the Russian Sailer Dance from the Level 1 Lesson Book from the Faber Piano Adventures.  In the video below, I provide Liz with a brief introduction to the piece and then ask her to sight-read the piece. Then, we talk a little bit more about the technique for getting a nice staccato sound and how she can shape the repeated notes to add interest.

Sorry about the low volume in this video!  Next time, I will boost the volume before I upload.

This NCTM video project has already changed my teaching.  As I watch my videos, I find myself realizing how I could have introduced a concept better, or could have been more concise with my conversation in favor of having the student DO things besides listening to me.  Of course, hindsight is always 20:20.  We do the best that we can in the time and circumstances we are given.  But I am a big believer in striving for self-improvement, so I’m going to keep watching my teaching videos and learning!  Observing my own teaching is already causing me to make subtle changes to my teaching that will make it more effective.

I would encourage each of you to get permission from a student or two to record their lessons so that you can afterwards evaluate your own teaching.  It’s very valuable!

Tech specs for anyone interested:  I encountered many technical difficulties with the camcorder I borrowed from my parents and I found most point-and-shoot cameras have a 20 minute limit for video clip length.  I finally decided to settle with using my iPhone 5C due to the convenience and ease-of-use.  Nowadays, the quality of the iPhone’s camera actually rivals what a typical point-and-shoot camera can do.  

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28 thoughts on “Piano Lesson Video: Introducing a New Piece”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this — it’s always great to see how other teachers approach teaching a new piece. I’ve been interested in the certification process, and will be interested to see what else you post about it in the future.

    … and to Liz — Bravo on that fantastic hand posture!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.

    I like the idea of videoing your lessons for review later. I know that seeing video and hearing recordings of myself has helped my playing.

    Out of curiosity, why did you decide to get the MTNA certification? You seem to have a good thing going without it.

    1. Hi Aaron!

      There are a couple of reasons why I am interested in the MTNA certification. First of all, I always try to pursue SOME kind of professional development at any given time. The MTNA certification is a natural choice as a project that will make me grow as a teacher. Second, I am in support of having some kind of standard (even voluntary) for piano teachers in this country. Currently, in the U.S., a license is required for being a plumber, dentist, or even a hairdresser — but nothing is required to be a piano teacher. I think it would be a fantastic thing for MTNA’s NCTM certification to become more recognized in the U.S. so that teachers/students would recognize it as a standard of excellence among piano teachers.

      Glad you liked the video!

  3. Thank you so much for posting this blog and your lesson video, Joy! I am currently working towards becoming NCTM as well and have just begun to take videos of my lessons, so this post was extremely encouraging. 🙂

  4. I like how you asked about “that rule with sharps” before she played. It’s something beginner students often forget, so it’s great that you gave her the chance to review it BEFORE a mistake happened instead of after!

  5. Very nice job, Joy! I like how you ask her so many questions. I’m curious what kind of camera you’re using? I’m looking at doing the certification this coming year myself and have a nice Android Samsung Galaxy S5 that I can put in airplane mode and it takes great videos. But, I’d rather use an actual digital camera if there is one out there that isn’t too pricey and looks nice. It seems as though all the Apple products now have difficulty with YouTube upload. Do you mind sharing what camera you have? Thank you for this post!

      1. Hi Sara!

        Yes, I took the video with my phone and later transferred the file to my computer. I trimmed this 5-minute clip using QuickTime on my computer before uploading it to YouTube. I think it took at least a half-hour for it to upload. I didn’t have to reformat the file.

  6. Joy, I started teaching a few years ago, but recently found your site. I feel it has been such a gift! I notice that lessons go more smoothly and I feel good about having lessons be more fun! Thank you for your candid commentary; this too helps me realize my own style. 🙂 Good luck with the project!

  7. I really like how you went over a lot before she started sight reading the piece. Before she was about to begin the first time it looks like she was a little concerned about something she may not have known about, and it seems like you really picked up on that right away and continued to explain about how the sharps work in the piece.

    I’m going to look into certification too, sounds interesting!

  8. good idea to film and look at our teaching styles.
    i just wonder why you ointed out things like staccatos, key signature, etc. instead of asking her to tell you what she saw?

    1. Hi Lynn! Thanks for your question. I introduce every piece differently, according to what I wish to emphasize to the student. Sometimes, I do begin a general “What do you notice about this piece?” kind of question, but I certainly don’t find that is necessary to do for every piece. Sometimes, I prefer students to notice things aurally instead of visually on the page. It all depends on what that students needs.

  9. Joy, I am so glad you are pursuing certification! I got my NCTM twelve years ago and have never regretted it. Let me encourage you to keep going – you will continue to learn and change through the process. You are such a good example! Thanks for sharing your journey.

  10. Joy – Good luck with your certification projects! It’s a lot of work but I feel like I learned a lot through the process and I’m glad to have it completed now. I really like that the write-ups about the videos allow you to admit places that you know could have gone better. I knew I would never have a “perfect” lesson video to use, but could have a good video that I could then explain what I would like to do even better.

    1. I agree, I’m glad the NCTM requirements aren’t looking for a “perfect” video because that would be pretty hard to achieve! I read the posts on your blog about certification with great interest. Thanks for posting those!

  11. Joy,

    I love the blog! I have tried contacting you through your contact form but I haven’t heard back from you yet. Just wanted to make sure you saw my question in there!


  12. I just found your blog today, and it looks great! I would love to pursue the NCTM certificate in the future, so I look forward to reading your posts about it.

    Also, props for your bravery in posting a video of teaching. I hadn’t thought of doing this before, but I really should. And your student has great hand position!

  13. Joy – I am getting ready to start this NCTM project of recording lessons. What did you use to hold your phone in place for recording?

  14. Hi Joy, I’m currently working on my certification and wondered if you could tell me if you used quicktime for the lessons that you submitted. How did you submit them? Also, did you use quicktime for the performance video? Thanks so much!

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