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#1270607 - 09/18/09 03:26 PM Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner
AZNpiano Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 7034
Loc: Orange County, CA
I'll start a list...feel free to add stuff...

1) Teach them proper hand positions, sitting posture, bench height, and distance from the keyboard.

2) Teach them the geography of the keyboard.

3) Teach them to read notes, and associate each note with the specific key on the keyboard, in the right octave.

4) Teach them proper tone production. Hammering, slamming, and poking of the keys are not appropriate.

5) DO NOT teach them by rote or the "just imitate me" method. You will end up with kids who don't read notes, don't want to read notes, and will refuse to "start over" with the proper technique and proper method book series. And these kids will just quit piano out of frustration.

6) Pick one or two method book series and stick with it. Don't veer off the method books unless the student is truly ready to read music fluently. Don't mix and match method books, or use a bunch of old, used method books that don't correlate to anything.

7) Teach them good practice habits from the very beginning.
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1270695 - 09/18/09 05:43 PM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: AZNpiano]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I will disagree with point 5. Rote teaching has its place. I never teach technique, for instance, using a book. I want the students to watch their hands and concentrate on the sensations of the technique. If they are trying to read notes to perform a technique exercise, the technique gets lost.

I also use rote pieces at the very first lessons to demonstrate concepts of high/low, up/down/same and short/long. They must experience these things before they have to learn how to read them. It also allows us to focus on coordination and listening.

I also incorporate rote pieces into teaching reading. Students learn about notation by creating notation from their rote pieces. For instance, 2 weeks ago I had a student working with a song called "Engine Engine Number 9." It's a black key piece played with one finger. It goes up, down, and at the end, stays the same. It has short and long notes (quarter/half). The student developed her own notation with green and red dot stickers. The green stickers were the quarter notes, the red were the half notes. She placed the stickers on some paper going up, down, same. She was able to see the patterns and how they related to each other. When I showed her the real notation to her, she understood what she saw by comparison.

Rote teaching can't be a substitute for learning how to read, but it can be an aid, a step in the process.

And probably most importantly, teach your students, from day one, how to listen to the sound they are producing and inspire them to its beauty!
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

#1270753 - 09/18/09 07:53 PM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: Minniemay]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Precharts before music staff are the way I teach the first basic lessons - kids thrive on it and get off to a good start quickly and have lots of songs that they can play and memorize. We work on fingering primarily and magic counting,hand shape, positions, eye movement training, keeping a steady beat, phrasing, inflection from reading and sing lyrics, accents, meter, tempo, phrasing. Just everything comes into play. When done with the RH introduction, we do Middle C postion songs giving us 9 note songs. Then tetrachord fingering for a Major C scale, and Parallel C. By this time music staff is being used and the student has been oriented to the keyboard, to himself as an thinking-feeling-doing instrument, and to the music staff.

Rote teaching is part of this acquiring of skills but not just imitation by watching and listening. The rote teaching is working with the students instincts for movement around the keyboard. It is working with effectiveness of touch and efficiency of movement. It's an exploration of when you do this - this is what you get in sound.

There are many many ways to reach our students and we get best results when we have figured out what are his natural learning styles, observation powers and his native responses.

I think everything needs introduction, clarification and then accurate drilling into the student for retrieval. I don't want them to go through a book on their own turning pages of songs to play. That is too casual for me. We work to understand and remember at lessons.

ABCDEFG has to be learned backwards GFEDCBA. How many method books do that?

Method books start naming the line and spaces with letter names before first identifying there are 5 lines and 4 spaces in one staff. L1 L2 L3 L4 L5 needs to be drawn and identified, then spaces numbered S1 S2 S3 S4. A little bit of notebook work to make sure that was understood. Now you are ready for lines and spaces naming. I simply put FACE on the spaces and ask the student if he can name the line notes based on what is given on the spaces. The kids can do this. Same thing with spaces in the bass clef. ACE is all thats needed - the G will be added after they add the GBDFQ of it. By putting this process in their brain as a challenge, they are not going to parrot back the names of the lines and spaces they are going to know what they did to accomplish the naming. Then the middle C area is easy for them to put into place between the A line and the E line (just 3 letter names). This is pretty successful thinking on their part.

So, I'm an advocate of learning to teach without a published method. No one can do the system better than you can when you understand what the student needs to know in the next minute. I also believe you think through the piece first by noticing and analyzing what the music contails. Title. Composer. Tempo. What kind of notes, step, skip, repeated notes, dynamics, vocabulary words. Discover the challenges now before you begin. This sets up a work ethic of having something to look for each time you practice the piece. Practicing is a thinking process as well as a physical exercise.

Choose your own music from public domain to match your teaching concepts. Work setting it up in the beginning, but long lasting far into the future for you. And, very satisfying to have discovered your abilities to teach what you know.


#1270767 - 09/18/09 08:16 PM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: Betty Patnude]
michiganteacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 71
Loc: Michigan, United States
8) Teach them a steady beat and rhythmic values
Jessica S.

#1270785 - 09/18/09 09:30 PM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: AZNpiano]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1654
Loc: northern California
My number one would be:

As a teacher, have fun during the process. Enjoy each and every lesson with your new student.
Piano Teacher

#1270996 - 09/19/09 11:18 AM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: Barb860]
Knabe26 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 222
Loc: Northern California

ABCDEFG has to be learned backwards GFEDCBA. How many method books do that?

Method books start naming the line and spaces with letter names before first identifying there are 5 lines and 4 spaces in one staff.

Betty, I know you use your own method, and I don't know for how long you have been doing that, or if you are therefore familiar with current methods such as Faber and Faber Piano Adventures, which does indeed cover these things.

Full-Time Private Piano Instructor

#1271137 - 09/19/09 04:17 PM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: Knabe26]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington

I'm glad to know that!

What I really like about Faber and Faber is the huge website behind the scenes that has so much available to help teachers. Randall and Nancy have a huge commitment to teachers far beyond the marketing of the music.

I did ask "how many methods do this?", so I would appreciate even more answers from other posters.

I previously looked through all methods that have been published back to the 1940's. Now I only look at the new method publications when a new one is released. I also buy the newest methods in their complete sets to see if there are new ideas appearing in them. I have recently given out two different method books for Primer Level so I can see how the students who are beginners are handling them in addition to my "Piano Power". Interesting results.

I often found myself using white out to make changes on the pages when I was using other methods years ago. I used the little brush until I thought I would go crazy with the effort. Once, an adult student brought me the new version of white out in pen form because she knew I was brushing away with a very little brush. It was a big grin moment when she gave me the new and improved version of them.

The white out problem as well as having a different sequence to the teaching concepts was the biggest reason I took the time to do my own. I have been the sole distributor of my method. I have thought of putting it on the market, but I also decided that teachers would gain from my instruction of how to use it effectively. A huge undertaking and only doable with large marketing expertise. web instruction experience and a following, all resources which I lack.

The alphabet forward and back is only one of the things that I think should be included. We need to know that for when the music descends. I like for them to be aware of "retrograde" concept because later we are going to use that concept. Here is a good place to implant it.

Back to the alphabet for a minute: I don't teach of using letter names in reading music. We use visual-spatial reading of step, skips, repeated notes, distance and direction to travel through the music. We think in letter names only when there is a greater distance than an octave, we have moved to the next line, or changed clefs. Movement within an octave is handled by finger exchanges and finger substitutions on a common note. I call these situations: 5-2 (for example), and "SNDF" same note, different finger.

I took this opportunity to explain the "why" of my method, and the "organization and feature " of methods that work best for us. I hope it isn't too much said in reply.


#1271389 - 09/20/09 02:19 AM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: Betty Patnude]
Roxy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/19/08
Posts: 478
Loc: Whittier, Calif
The forward backward alphabet amongst other very basic step by step things such as this is a line note this is a space note increasing in difficulty is found in the old books of Primer Theory by Glover and Primer Notespeller also by Glover. For a first basic book I have not found any to beat them. They are designed for the parent to be able to help the child even if they know nothing about music so they can help reinforce what you have done at your students lesson.

#1271419 - 09/20/09 04:30 AM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: Roxy]
AZNpiano Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 7034
Loc: Orange County, CA
Perhaps rote teaching does have its place, but its use has to be very limited:
1) first two months of lessons,
2) children under 7, and
3) students with other challenges.

I have seen way too many victims of the "imitate me" approach of piano-teaching. These kids become "memorizers" who can't sight read anything, and the first thing they ask you to do when learning a new piece is "Would you play that for me?"
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

#1272008 - 09/21/09 09:55 AM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: AZNpiano]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 15475
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I understand your point, AZN, and that is how I took it in your first post. Rote learning has its place, but not as a substitute for learning to read notation.

I would add to your list "creating their own music at the piano, first by improvising, and then composing." There is nothing more rewarding than creating your own music. It has a lot of practical applications, too, when understanding why the composer did what he/she did, but more importantly, it makes them *musicians*.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#1272129 - 09/21/09 02:19 PM Re: Responsibilities of Teaching a Beginner [Re: Morodiene]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I think modeling for students is crucial. You have to separate it from the reading issue. When you are working on listening and technique, you are not working on reading. I cannot expect my students to produce beautiful tone or understand line if they have no frame of reference. This is what demonstration is for! Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water.
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano


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