Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Different Kinds of Drills

Drill on Five-Finger Positions on Treble and Bass Staves. The positions are typically shown in the early literature. The piano teacher drills the student in finding these hand positions and then may call for the "five-finger position of the right hand, treble staff, key of G," or "the five-finger position of the left hand, bass staff, key of A-minor," etc. This drill can be reversed by the teacher playing the phrase and the student pointing to the notation in his book. This helps with early fundamentals in learning keyboard fingering.

Theory of Music. Naming the notations, key signatures, names of chords, and so forth are learned incidentally and not through drill. After a while when these are consistently called by their names, students will soon associate the correct names with familiar characters. Drilling theory is distasteful to young children and unproductive. But once notations and their names are familiar, it is good to occasionally question the student to be sure that the association is correct. Don't explain, merely use and call by name. Organized explanations will come in later years.

The Tonic Chord. The tonic chord is learned as it appears in the literature, and then serves for drill similar to the drill on the five-finger positions. All chord study should be presented as sound, not merely as notes.

Writing Music. As chords are studied in later lessons, students can write chords in predesignated keys. Later students are encouraged to discover experimentally the application of these chords in harmonizing the melodies, and to write the chords in the staves of predesignated pieces themselves.

Two-Handed Melodies. Drills can be developed in finding the two-hand positions and alternating the hands on the keyboard. The alternation of hands must be practiced until it can be done without an appreciable break in the legato passage. These little studies should never be played with both hands together.

For more information about piano instruction NJ, contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio.

Sight Reading

One of the most important objectives of singing and playing is the development of fluent sight reading. Every selection provides material for correlating ear, eye and hand. The piano teacher should realize that the child's early experience is best not directed to playing new material from the notes. This practice leads merely to note-to-note reading, rather than to a comprehensive grasp of music notation. Instead of reading new material the child should have an opportunity to develop ready recognition of the notation of familiar passages of music.

For example, a child of at least five years old can be taught the C major scale fairly easily. Once the scale is learned, the piano teacher can point out pieces of the scale found in the song. Often beginner songs are composed of scale fragments. This will also facilitate fingering by reminding the student that the fingering used is the same as or similar to that used in playing a scale. The familiarity of the scale fingering gives the student an anchor of self-confidence in recognizing phrase patterns.

Songs can be freely used as sight reading drills. After a piece has been learned so that the student can play it readily and accurately, the piano teacher can choose a phrase and ask the student to play just that much. The indication may be given by directions such as "Play the second phrase," or the teacher might point to the phrase.

With a minimum of effort the student learns to recognize a familiar phrase and to play it in its correct octave, as indicated by the treble or bass staff. This practice in recall can avoid note-to-note playing and lead to real music reading.

For more information about how to learn piano NJ, contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inventing Variations on a Melody

After learning a piece, have beginner to intermediate students find the same hand position higher and lower on the keyboard and play the melody in various octaves. Let them discover in how many places on the keyboard the same phrases may be played. What different effects result from playing in different octaves? Imagine a particular effect and find the octave most appropriate to produce it. The piano teacher may play keyboard phrasing and the student try to find the octaves he has heard. The phrases may be divided between the two hands and played in different octaves; occasional hand crossings may be used.

Have the student transpose the composition into different keys. Change a major key to a minor key and see what the effects are.

The variations are almost limitless in their possibilities, and the imaginative and inventive teacher will find this a fertile ground for stimulating creative practice.

This activity is great for

1. Encouraging creativity and playfulness by inventing new combinations and effects
2. Stimulating the imagination to find new effects
3. Clarifying spatial relationship of the keyboard, and developing the muscular consciousness of the extensive proportions of the keyboard
4. Promoting freedom of arm movement and to learn keyboard facility

For more information about piano instruction NJ, contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Training for Feel of the Keyboard

The development of the feeling for the keyboard is important from the start. From the first lesson, the hand positions should be made a matter of feeling the keys rather than merely seeing them. This development of the muscular sense continues throughout the training of the pianist, and eventually becomes almost an automatic reflex action. The ability to feel scale and chord hand-positions coordinates with sensing the aural effects of the tones produced, an essential in fluent sight reading.

The first step in playing by imitation is to establish the hand-position. The five fingers of the right hand are placed over the first five key of the scale involved. From this hand position it is a simple step to playing, by combined ear, eye and directions, the five finger pieces at the elementary level. The notation is then shown to the student as a picture of what he has played.

The same procedure is then taken with the left hand.

Next there is an alternation of hands, the first phrase being played by one hand and the second phrase by the other.

From this first experience in playing by imitation the student progresses to the subsequent steps of learning piano, each new element being presented through imitation. It is important to demonstrate the correct hand position, fingering, phrasing, and expression. From the first lesson the student should be made to realize that good piano playing demands thoroughness and attention to detail. He should be encouraged to think of the piano as a means of self-expressing, and that by beautiful self-expression can he find pleasure in his music.

For more information about piano classes NJ, contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio.