A Heart For Teaching Piano Teachers part 2

Here is the second part of last week’s blog post. 

A Heart for Teaching Piano Teachers

Continued.

Everything has a downside

While it true that sharing and posting is 99.9% fantastic and I learn so much, I can’t help but think of my younger self. The Doreen who’d just graduated from college not feeling so confident. Let’s face it, music school isn’t for the faint of heart. I worked hard, but when I came out I didn’t feel prepared for the real world of the working musician or the piano teacher. Even if I’d had the courage to pipe up and ask a question on social media I surely would have been easily discouraged if someone would have come back with a judgmental comment.

What’s the point?

Actually, this is hard because there are so many teachers. Piano teachers who run the gamut from highly qualified teachers with advanced degrees to skilled teachers without degrees. From those just starting out who really want to learn more to those who don’t want to learn and probably shouldn’t be teaching at all (yes these people do exist, unfortunately).

I am going to take a stand and say that I believe that in order to teach the piano effectively you should know how to play it. You need to have a command of the instrument, be able to read music well, understand how to teach good technique. You also need to be knowledgeable about the repertoire of the genre you are teaching (classical, jazz etc).

I am passionate about this because I myself was negatively impacted by bad teaching as a young person. Suffice it to say that my teacher (who was a very nice man with good intentions I am sure) did not to teach me to play correctly. My parents are not musicians and I was a student who depended upon my teacher to guide me. Thankfully, I found a good teacher who saved the day and set things straight.

That being said, we are all on a journey. Any teacher who cares enough to be trying to improve should be given credit for that. I totally get the whole degree vs. non-degree debate. If you have one you worked your but off for it and probably paid through the nose while you were at it. I know I did. If you don’t have a music degree you may feel as though you can never catch up no matter how much you practice how well you play or how hard you work.

No matter where you fall on the piano teaching continuum we all have the same goal in mind. To pass the gift of music to our students. Why? because we love the piano and we love them.

A Heart for Teaching Teachers

So we’ve come full circle. Who better to teach piano teachers than piano teachers? Who better to set high standards for new teachers than successful experienced teachers? Who better to take our profession to the next level and teach new teachers so that piano education can continue to flourish?

Who better?

No one, that’s our job.

So as they say at Nike “Let’s do it!”

I just started a brand new Facebook group called “Piano Teacher Apprentice”. I need experienced teachers with a heart for teaching teachers to come on board and…well…teach teachers.

I also want to cordially invite new teachers or anyone who wants a safe compassionate place to learn about piano pedagogy. A group where no question is too silly to ask and everyone is respected.

I hope to see you in the group!

Click here to join.

Thanks for reading

A Heart for Teaching Piano Teachers

I remember my very first piano teaching job at a music store in New York. I got the job because my violin teacher and her husband owned the store. I had a degree in music and could play pretty well but to be honest I didn’t think too much about the teaching process. I picked up a method book and did what my piano teachers did, or at least I tried to. I can’t say my early teaching was on the job training because I was on the job but there was no training. It was more like learn as you go and hope for the best.

 

Today things are different. We have the internet! There are Facebook groups, webinars, books, and all kinds of training on and offline. The best part of all of this is that teachers are the ones actually doing the teaching. Teachers like you and me who open our doors every afternoon and teach piano students of all ages. Real life teachers in the trenches dealing with practicing issues, technical problems, and personality conflicts. Piano teachers who have found solutions to problems and are willing to share them. These very same teachers are coming up with all kinds of Innovative ways to teach the piano and are willing to share those too. How amazing is that?

Continue reading “A Heart for Teaching Piano Teachers”

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?”

Countdown to a Stellar Holiday Piano Recital

Ho Ho Ho! Countdown to the Holiday Piano Recital!

Holiday piano recitals are great. A time for star students to get up there and show their stuff. A time for parents and grandparents to experience the payoff that comes with all of those lessons and all of that practicing. A time for teachers to see the fruits of their labor.

Then again, recitals are also a time when students are nervous, parents are worried, and teachers…well teachers are just plain stressed out! Especially at Holiday Time. But this doesn’t need to be the case. With some careful planning, holiday recitals actually can be fun. How, you ask? Come on, fasten your seatbelt as we launch into a “Countdown to a Stellar and Stress-Free Holiday Piano Recital.”

T-10 Set a Date

Once you decide you want to have a holiday piano recital, set a holiday recital date. Holiday time can be tricky for a lot of families. Some things to consider when setting a recital date are things like; school exams and school concerts. I also recommend booking a recital a few months in advance in order to give students plenty of time to prepare their music. I know some teachers who have a “Winter Recital” after the Holidays. This is a great option if you find that you are just too pressed during December.

Continue reading “Countdown to a Stellar Holiday Piano Recital”

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?

There are basically two types of pianos Acoustic and Digital. First, let’s look at Acoustic Pianos.

Acoustic Pianos are made of wood and have steel strings. An acoustic piano a great choice if you have space in your home to accommodate one and if you can afford it. Concert artists always play on fine acoustic pianos and almost all pianists prefer them. Acoustic pianos need periodic tuning, however, this is a minimal expense. If carefully chosen and properly cared for an acoustic piano is an investment that will last a lifetime.

It is important to know that acoustics pianos vary wildly in price, quality, and condition. In order to be useful for piano practice an acoustic piano must be new or a well maintained pre-owned piano. You must also look for a reputable brand of instrument. Acoustic pianos have over 10,000 moving parts, these parts wear out if not properly maintained. I always recommend that families get help when selecting an acoustic piano. Consult your teacher he/she can certainly point you in the right direction and help with your piano selection.

Digital Pianos

Digital Pianos are electronic instruments. Digital pianos have a full set of 88 weighted keys. The weights inside the keys make these instruments feel more like acoustic pianos when playing. They also have an assortment of different sounds and computer interface capabilities.

Digital Pianos have improved greatly in price and quality over the past 20 years. In my opinion, a good quality digital piano with its own case and bench for proper seating is a good option for families that do not have space and budget for an acoustic piano. Digital pianos also vary in price and quality so please consult your teacher before purchasing a digital piano.

Keyboards

Keyboards are not pianos and are not acceptable for piano practice. They do not sound or feel like a piano and practicing on a keyboard will be discouraging and foster bad habits. I would also prefer that my students forgo practice on a keyboard and concentrate on the lessons in “First Four Week Before a Piano” rather than practice on a keyboard. In my 30 plus years of teaching, I have seen that keyboards just don’t work. Piano students need pianos.

There are many many affordable options when it comes to getting a piano. You can rent or buy. Some of my students have even received nice pianos from friends or relatives. The bottom line is that the sooner you get a good quality piano the better.

If you’d like to receive hundreds of pages of free printable piano teaching resources

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?

There are basically two types of pianos, Acoustic and Digital. First, let’s look at Acoustic Pianos.

Acoustic Pianos are made of wood and have steel strings. An acoustic piano is a great choice if you have space in your home to accommodate one and if you can afford it. Concert artists always play on fine acoustic pianos and almost all pianists prefer them. Acoustic pianos need periodic tuning, however, this is a minimal expense. If carefully chosen and properly cared for, an acoustic piano is an investment that will last a lifetime.

It is important to know that acoustic pianos vary wildly in price, quality and condition. In order to be useful for piano practice, an acoustic piano must be a new or a well maintained pre-owned piano. You must also look for a reputable brand of instrument. Acoustic pianos have over 10,000 moving parts, these parts wear out if not properly maintained. I always recommend that families get help when selecting an acoustic piano. Consult your teacher. He/she can certainly point you in the right direction and help with your piano selection.

Digital Pianos

Digital Pianos are electronic instruments. Digital pianos have a full set of 88 weighted keys. The weights inside the keys make these instruments feel more like acoustic pianos when played. They also have an assortment of different sounds and computer interface capabilities.

Digital Pianos have improved greatly in price and quality over the past 20 years. In my opinion, a good quality digital piano with its own case and bench for proper seating is a good option for families that do not have space and budget for an acoustic piano. Digital pianos also vary in price and quality, so please consult your teacher before purchasing a digital piano.

Keyboards

Keyboards are not pianos and are not acceptable for piano practice. They do not sound or feel like a piano and practicing on a keyboard will be discouraging and will foster bad habits. I would also prefer that my students forgo practice on a keyboard and concentrate on the lessons in “First Four Week Before a Piano” (coming soon) rather than practice on a keyboard. In my 30 plus years of teaching, I have seen that keyboards just don’t work. Piano students need pianos.

There are many many affordable options when it comes to getting a piano. You can rent or buy. Some of my students have even received nice pianos from friends or relatives. The bottom line is that the sooner you get a good quality piano the better.

If you would like free printable music

Piano Method Books – A Brief History

I have been doing some research on the history of piano method books. Who taught the great composers of the past to play? and what materials were used to teach these great musicians? Has piano teaching changed over the years? I think this topic is worth exploring.

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It is well known that Johann Sebastian Bach began his musical education under the tutelage of his very musical family. It is thought that his eldest brother Johann Christian probably taught him the basics of violin and music theory. He also played the Organ and the Harpsichord. What materials were used to teach the young Bach, who is now regarded as the father of modern music, is unknown. We do know however that Bach created his own music to use in teaching his second wife Anna Magdalena and several of his children to play the Clavier.

Most of the other great great musicians were trained by their musical families or by prominent musicians of the time. Mozart was trained by his father Leopold. Brahms learned piano from his mother but little is known about what music was actually used to teach these great masters or anyone else back in those days. We can assume that they had probably used Bach’s works as well as the easier works of other composers. Scales, and Arpeggios were undoubtedly used as well.

Carl Czerny (1791-1857) was the first composer to include fingerings in his music and actually create exercises based upon those fingerings. He also wrote a library of teaching pieces. Czerny’s music is still standard fare for the aspiring pianist. About the same time composers Henri Bertini, Franz Kohler and others wrote piano method books. These books consisted mostly of drills and exercises and are not wisely used today.

The time period around 1925 is referred to as the “Golden Age of the Piano”. The instrument gained popularity as many piano manufacturers made the purchase of a piano attainable for the middle class family. To coincide with the surge in interest a “New Age” of piano method was born. These newer piano books promised to make learning the piano more fun and featured whimsical songs and illustrations. The most popular of these older methods were written by John Schwam and John Thompson. There are newer versions of the same of these such as Faber and Faber, and the Alfred Piano Method.

In addition to traditional style piano books there are also a plethora of piano books with catchy themes and gimmicks that are supposed to make piano playing easy and fun. And let’s not forget learn to play online methods and those that rely heavily on technology such as computer based piano learning programs.

Keyboard playing has little changed since Bach’s time. Aside from the fact that Bach did not have the Piano as we know it today (The Piano Forte was invented by Bartomoleo Cristofori circa 1700.) the mechanics of playing are comparable. Music notation remains virtually unchanged since the 1600’s as well. And people are still people. So what has changed? Why do we have all of these “new” piano methods?

The culture has changed today’s piano students are more independent and I believe more sophisticated than I was as a child. Today’s kids have the world of music at their finger tips. They know what they like and what they don’t. They have technology and they know how to use it. They live in a fast paced highly engaging world, there are many things competing for their attention. I can not imagine any of my students sitting through Bertini’s Piano Method. No disrespect intended toward Mr. Bertini he was a fine pianist in his day but tastes and preferences have changed.

I really don’t believe in gimmicks or learn to play instantly piano methods. I firmly believe that students need competent teachers. I love to write music so I set out to create a piano method that would have some fresh music and would help my students with reading by moving slowly and omitting gratuitous fingering numbers. But I want Paloma Piano to be more that just a piano method, I envision a community where we can share ideas. Piano teaching is always evolving it is my wish that we as teachers can work together to better meet the needs of piano our students,

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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