Teaching Popular Music

My very first piano teacher Mr. Herbert Sweet taught me to play popular music from the very beginning. I remember he would write out the melody and the chords to songs in a manuscript book and teach me to play my favorite pop tunes.

I think teaching popular music is super valuable. It is great for developing the ability to play by ear. It helps with music theory by teaching students about chords. Learning to play popular music includes a level of creativity and improvisation that helps people to become comfortable at the keyboard.

“Fake it till you make it” and “Close enough for rock and roll” are expressions we’ve all heard. Basically, they mean, keep going, don’t stop playing. This can be very helpful in quelling performance anxiety and making play the piano a lot more enjoyable.

Plus, Popular music easily builds a student’s repertoire. It can also be motivating because in the long run, popular music is much easier to learn and memorize than most classical music. Lastly, popular music also opens the door to the study of blues and jazz.

Getting Started

I start popular music with early-intermediate students I want them to have a firm foundation. Which means good technique and the ability to read music.

I sometimes make exceptions with the ability to read music. Some students have such “great ears” that learning this way is their strong suit. If they are struggling with reading, we focus on playing by ear alongside working from a method book.

I teach my students popular music without using books or music notation. I want them to learn to play their favorite songs by ear. Here are the steps I follow.

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Let’s Get Going! Tips for Getting our Students (and Ourselves) out of the Doldrums and Back into Action

It’s only Tuesday and it’s been a real challenge this week. Even some of my best students seem to be in Lala land. Forgetting notes and rhythms, losing music, playing scales with the wrong fingering. It’s enough to make even ‘the happiest piano teacher in town’ well…not so happy.

I’ve talked to some other teachers and I know I am not alone. Times are anything but usual right now and I believe our students need us more than ever. More than they need us, they need music. So how can we take the pressure off and make piano lessons a bit more fun while at the same time making sure that our students are actually learning something?

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Making Online Teaching Easier Updated

We have all been thrown into online lessons whether we wanted to be teaching online or not. I have been teaching online since 2016 when I moved from South Florida to Cleveland Ohio. I have several students who wanted to continue their lessons with me, so I started teaching using FaceTime and now Zoom.

I have learned quite a bit over the last few months so I am sharing some new things here. Happy Online teaching!

For Yourself

1 – Get comfortable. Get a comfortable chair, set things up so you can stand if you need to. Being physically comfortable is step one in making online lessons easier.

2 – Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite drink. Treat yourself, you deserve it!

3 – Change your schedule. Online teaching is more demanding for us. However, just about everyone has some flexibility right now. I set my schedule up so that I don’t have more than seven or eight students in a row.

4 – Keep a pen and paper handy to take notes.

5 – Invest in a webcam for over the keys. I use this tool at every lesson to demonstrate how things are to be played. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

When Working With Your Students

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