What Kind of Piano Teacher are You Anyway?

What Kind of Piano Teacher am I?

Take the Quiz below

 

I my last blog post “Still Trying to Please Everyone? Stop it! You Can’t” I describe an incident with the parent of a prospective student. This particular parent questioned how and why I teach the way I do. This got me to thinking, why do I teach scales and arpeggios after my students have learned to read music? Should I include more technique? Are my music theory books good enough? Am I strict enough? 

Something New Every Week

It seems as though every week I come across some new teaching idea. Some way of doing things I hadn’t thought of before. Just last Friday I went to a lecture on piano technique given by Nancy Bachus, whoa!! I thought I knew a lot about piano technique. After hearing her, I think to myself there’s definitely room for me to up my game on that front. I wonder what else I can improve.

Then there’s Facebook. So many cool things, great music, and awesome opinions. It literally makes my head spin (OK not literally). But it can be overwhelming, and at times I find myself questioning my teaching. What kind of piano teacher am I anyway?

What Kind of Piano Teacher am I?

Continue reading “What Kind of Piano Teacher are You Anyway?”

Still Trying to Please Everyone? Stop it, You Can’t!

I had almost forgotten.

It’s been a little while since I’ve been hit with a dose of negativity. Things have been going pretty well lately. I got a job at a studio I love and I’ve picked up quite a few students in my home studio too. All of them happy. Parents, students, everyone’s been really great! Full of compliments and tidings of goodwill.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday…I got the worst email I have ever received from a parent, ever! (and for me ever is over 30 years).

Here’s what happened.

Continue reading “Still Trying to Please Everyone? Stop it, You Can’t!”

Why do We Need a Piano and What Type Should We Get

Students need a piano because they need to be able to practice at home. Learning to play any musical instrument is a big undertaking that depends upon regular lessons and daily practice. It takes practice to understand musical concepts and to acquire the coordination and motor skills it takes to become a pianist.

What Should We Get?

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Create Your Own Hands-on Piano Activities

Hands-on is Helpful.

I live in Cleveland Ohio in the U.S. There is a large and vibrant classical music community here due to the presence of the Cleveland Institute of Music. As a result, a lot of my student’s parents are musicians. At an introductory lesson, one pianist-father observed all of the hands-on activities his son was engaged in at the lesson. His comment was that piano pedagogy had come a long way since he had taken lessons as a boy. I believe this is true, largely because of all of the awesome sharing that takes place between all of us on the internet and on social media. There are so many great ideas and activities going around. I love to come up with hands-on activities myself, and I enjoy sharing them with our Paloma Piano community. In this post, I thought I would share how to create your own hands-on piano activities.

Resources are Everywhere!

For ten years, I worked as a preschool teacher in a Montessori School. The head teacher at our school was a highly trained Montessori Specialist and highly creative person. She taught me to see everything as a potential learning activity. Discarded keys became a matching lesson; old perfume bottles: an opportunity to sort and the match tops to the bottles; clothes pins and cloth: a chance to hone fine motor skills, and on and on. The shelves at our school were filled with learning activities; most of them hand made. I noticed that there were two main strategies to come up with new activities. I also knew that I could apply these ideas to piano teaching.

Strategy 1: Think of a Problem that Needs Solving

Is a preschool student having trouble remembering the names of the keys? Think of ways that could help him remember. Use things that are colorful, interesting to look at and to touch. For young students, I like to choose things that feel interesting and are large enough for little hands to grasp. I think of using the senses of sight, touch and sound together when creating activities for young students. Getting young students off of the piano bench periodically is also important.

Older students can benefit from hands on activities as well. Visual aids can be used to teach theoretical concepts like how scales are constructed or how different triads are formed. More advanced students also love games and challenges. Is an older student having trouble memorizing? Think of ways to turn memorizing into a game or a challenge. Using these ideas you can create your own hands-on piano activities.

Strategy 2: See Something and Then Come up With Ways to Use It

There really are resources everywhere. Keep this in mind when shopping, cleaning out closets and drawers or just walking around outside. When you come across something interesting, ask yourself if it is something you can use in a piano lesson. This can be super fun and the more you practice coming up with ideas the better you will get at thinking of great and unique activities for you students.

Learn more about using games in your studio read the post “Piano Teaching Games”

Start With a Brain Dump

When trying to find ways to solve a problem or make use of an object. Write down every idea that comes to mind no matter how crazy it may seem. Inevitably some of these ideas will be good ones and ideas always lead to more ideas for you to create your own hands-on piano activities.

Here’s an example of how to create your own hands-on piano activities.

Jillian is 4 years-old she is having trouble understanding the concept of high notes being the on the right side of the keyboard and low notes being on the left side of the keyboard. I am going to think of ten crazy, off the cuff ways to help her.

  1. Take a paper keyboard chart turn it on its side so the right side of the keyboard is higher, then put it back down.
  2. Put a red bead or piece of paper on the right side of the keyboard and a red sticker on the paper flip it up and see how the red is high, use a different color for the low notes on the left side.
  3. Play a higher lower game play a note and have the student play a higher or lower note.
  4. Put a red sticker with an H on the student’s right hand use a different color for the left hand.
  5. Have the student put a red bead on the high side of every group of three black keys (B). Repeat with the low notes.
  6. Play a “Chase” game. Play a note have the student play a higher note as quickly as possible until the top of the keyboard is reached. Repeat for the low side of the keyboard.
  7. Use a small plastic bird and place it on the highest notes on the keyboard use something like a small fish for the low notes.
  8. Make up a little chant and movement activity to a simple tune like “Merrily we Roll Along”“The high notes are on the right, on the right, on the right.” Etc.
  9. Have the student play a five finger exercise and say the word “higher” on each note C through G. Reverse for the low notes.
  10. Have the student find a series of random notes each one must be higher (or lower) than the next. (for example; A, G, F. G must be higher than A and F higher than G)

Obviously, not all of these ideas are fantastic, but a couple of them are usable and one or two might really click with my student.

Try these exercises.

Think of some ways to help these students.

    1. Scott has been playing for three years but has trouble remembering Key Signatures.
    2. 5-year-old Sandra avoids using her thumb when playing.

Think of some ways the following objects could be used in a piano lesson. (You can add other objects to the ones suggested

    1. Pipe Cleaners
    2. Sea Shells
    3. Small Wooden Cubes

I know that teachers are such creative people and are always coming up with new ways to teach. I hope some teachers might find these ideas helpful. I would love to hear about how all of you come up with unique activities for your students.

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Visit our sister-site for parents and students pianoparents.net