OUTLINE OF A FIRST PIANO LESSON
Ensure the pupil is at ease, establish a friendly rapport. Pupils often turn up in sports clothes; they may play rugby, tennis or hockey for the school team. I try to show interest (briefly) in how they are doing with their other pursuits – you can make a friend for life with a lad these days just by noticing the shirt he’;s wearing happens to be Manchester Utd’;s latest ‘;away strip.’; As our house affords views of fields and farmland, the antics of horses in an adjoining field will often help to put a youngster at ease.
- DISCUSS the piano – What it is; how it works; their own piano? How much do they know? Awareness of high and low tones; soft and loud with use of weight; difference between right and left, up and down; low and high sounds: Some beginners confuse ‘;high’; with ‘;loud’; and ‘;low’; with ‘;soft’;, so some careful explanations and analogies may be necessary.
- POSTURE – How to sit; body position, arms, back, knees and feet; Why? – simple explanation of tone production and how relaxing tension helps produce more beautiful tone etc ..
- HANDS – Explain finger numbers and simple exercises involving individual fingers moving independently. Curvature of fingers (rounded hands) Clapping etc ..
- KEYBOARD – Where is ‘;middle C’; in relation to the sitting position; recognition of black key groups; letter names of keys; finding keys by feel etc .. Explanation of musical alphabet.
- RUDIMENTS – Understanding of crotchet (quarter) minim (half) and semibreve (whole) notes; counting bars, Bar lines, clefs etc ..
- PERFORMANCE – The performance of a simple piece involving three or more fingers of either or both hands (according to age or ability) – in Middle ‘;C’; position or using black key notes utilizing the pentatonic scale. A tune in the five finger position CDEFG like ‘;Merrily we Roll Along’; or similar is suitable.
All this (if possible) can be achieved during the first 1-3 lessons depending on age and aptitude. It is also never to soon to teach the value of such good habits as LISTENING and KEEPING EYES ON MUSIC.
During ensuing lessons pupils need constant reminders of the above.
At intervals of ten lessons or so a written review or questionnaire of the material covered during the term helps greatly to impress and retain the important aspects.
I divide the lesson into four main sections
- Scales and Exercises
- Pieces currently being studied and revision of repertoire: New material and relevant theory
- Sight-reading including relevant theory questions and / or flash cards:
- Ear-tests and Musicianship: It is never too early to begin ear training.
Written theory often requires separate lessons, particularly with exams looming. I sometimes check homework at the beginning of lessons.
The study of the theory of music obviously goes hand in hand with the practical performance of musical instrument. Some pupils are more inclined towards more academic aspects than others and I am always prepared to teach the individual according to most suitable way for them. Most adults for instance, would rather not be bothered with written work but simply to learn enough to enable them to read and play for their own pleasure. However, the pupil that makes progress through the grades with theory and practical exams seems to benefit in general areas of musicianship too.
Rudimentary theory also extends towards Form , Analysis and Composition and I try to touch on these areas whenever applicable even at an early stage. As a child begins a new piece it would seem opportune to discuss briefly any relevant information regarding the Composer – period, style, other works, genre, however the piece was originally intended to be performed on a modern piano etc. Form – whether Binary , Ternary , Sonata , part of Dance Suite , etc. Phrase structure could be examined, Analysis – Recognition of stepwise movement, intervals, chords, scale and arpeggio patterns, keys and modulations, melody and accompaniment awareness, cadence points etc. Simple composition, harmonization, and extemporisation can not be overlooked, as any primary music teacher, church organist or MD for the local operative society will affirm. Even the young keyboard player asked to join their first pop – group will be expected to improvise. So the message is – START EARLY .