Sunday, May 16, 2010

Piano Teaching Tips

  1. Singing the Song. Young piano students should try singing the song before trying to play it on the piano. The piano should consistently be a medium of expression. The student first knows the tones that he wants to play, and then makes the piano express what is in his imagination.
  2. Playing by Imitation. The piano teacher should play a phrase on a keyboard so that the student can observe every detail, and then they imitate what they see the teacher do. The early stages of every form of endeavor begins with the process of imitation. Students, however, are expected to begin the graduation development of independence in their work with recurring ideas and technique. The teacher should gradually withdraw assistance reserving the imitative processes for unfamiliar ideas only.
  3. Sight Reading. A firm foundation for sight reading can be laid in the first year of piano playing -- not through laborious note-by-note reading, but by teaching the student to learn to think and feel tones and notes in groups, melodic and chordal. Note-to-note playing seldom develops into skillful sight reading. The student can learn to sight read from recall of phrases or parts of phrases of familiar songs.
  4. Form. All music, and all other forms of art, is based on principles of form. The two essential principles are repetition and contrast. A song, for example, might consist of four phrases, each phrase on a separate line. Three of the phrases are alike (repetition) and one is different (contrast). The letter A is used to designate the first phrase and all similar phrases in the piece. The letter B designates the contrasting phrase. A study of the form of a song will have immediate application in the process of learning the song, because the student will perceive that when he can play the first phrase, he is also able without further study to play the next. The rhythm of one phrase covers the rhythmic problems of the complete song, at the simplest level. a) The teacher shows the student how to play the first appearance only of a phrase which is repeated. b) The student must be led to realize that the repetition of a phrase should be played with the same fingering as its first appearance. c) The phrase divisions of the song must be carefully indicated by raising the hands at the point of the song where the singer would breathe. Sometimes this motion of the hands can be slightly exaggerated until the principle of phrasing becomes firmly established.
  5. Technical Development. Insistent development to position of body, arm and hand should be emphasized from the beginning. The relative height of the keyboard and bench should be correct for the student. The distance of body from keyboard is also important. Constant attention should be given to the position and action of the arm, hand and fingers. There should be no rigidity, only ease and relaxation. Some five-finger and chord studies are designed as technic drills.
  6. Major Scales. The practice of all the major scales should be continuous. Pieces can be transposed as a helpful practice to play the scale of the key into which the composition has been transposed. Scale work eventually should include the major scale, natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, and melodic minor scale.
  7. Further Technical Development. Development of freedom in the feeling of relationship between the student and keyboard and ease of attack and release, through constant changing of the location of the hands up and down the keyboard should be promoted. The development of accuracy, smoothness and singing tone by keeping each hand in position directly above the five keys of the phrase or group of tones to be played is encouraged. Over time, a gradual extension of range over the keyboard can be encouraged, but the student should not be advanced so rapidly that he loses the feeling of the presence of the keys directly beneath his fingers. This feeling may be maintained through relaxation, from the shoulders, of the arm and wrist. Varieties of fingerings introduced should include replacement, expansion, contraction, substitution, broken chords, perhaps organ point, finger crossings, and hand crossings.
  8. Pedaling. Too early use of the pedal can likely lead to many bad playing habits. The student should be trained to listen to his own playing, and to secure a smooth legato and musical phrasing without the pedal. Gradually introduced, the pedal will enable the student to sustain a chord while adding other tones too distant to be played at the same time. A richer closing effect is then established. Practice may be given to developing a graceful sweet of the hand from the first position to the other distant key. An effort should be made to play the effects without looking at the keys, thereby developing the important feeling for the keyboard so essential to pianistic freedom. This development of playing with less visual attention to the keyboard should be gradual.
  9. Creative Work. The student should be encourage in original thinking by experimenting at the piano until he achieves a desired sound, and then to write the notes accordingly. The student can learn a melody until he can think about the tones when he is away from the keyboard. Then he experiments at the piano with the I and V7 chords until an acceptable accompaniment has evolved. The student decides for himself how the chords should be used. Then, in class, the student plays his arrangement for the teacher, and they come to an agreement as to the most effective accompaniment.
  10. Call and Response. The teacher can sing or play the first phrase of a two-phrase song, and have the student reply by singing or playing the second phrase. His attention should be called to the balance and proportion of the two phrases. He should observe the feeling of "question" in the first phrase and of "answer" in the second. He could himself invent a question and answer.
For more information about piano lessons NJ, contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio.