Saturday, April 13, 2013

Keyboard Triads and Inversions

Chords are a vital part of all students' technical programs.  This is because chord playing helps in developing a good hand position, shapes the fingers, and promotes facility for playing in more than one key at a time.  In the first year, piano students learn major and minor triads in root position, dominant seventh chords and subdominant chords.  Sometime near he end of the second year of lessons students can be taught triads and inversions.  These will be major and minor triads.  The correct fingering is very important when teaching chord inversions on the keyboard.  A common problem is that students play the same fingers for the root position and the inversions.  To make students aware of changing fingers, it can be helpful to circle the written fingering in each hand that is different.  Students should also be taught the chords in both block and broken style.

Triads and inversions should be studied both ascending and descending.  While many students are able to play the chords ascending, many have lost the picture of the chord they are inverting and are not able to return back down.

The chords should not be "discovered" by trial and error using the trial by ear method.  A mental picture of correct fingering should be established to form an anticipated feeling for successive chords in the pattern.

Since fingering is important when learning triads and inversions, enough drill should be assigned so that in time the correct fingering will become automatic.  Sometimes it helps to have students say out loud the fingering for the middle note of the chords.

Students should learn all twelve major and minor triads and inversions.  Remind students that the word practice means repetition.  Advise students how many times you want each one repeated on a daily basis.

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

Friday, April 12, 2013

Scales for Beginning Pianists

In the first year of lessons scale playing is minimal for most, but not all, students.  Certainly there are those who are capable of grasping the feel and location of the keys very quickly.  Others may need to wait to play scales until the hand/eye coordination is more mature.  However, few, if any, scale passages are used in first year literature.  Most teachers would probably agree that learning some scale patterns will benefit first year students.  One or two octave scales can be taught.  Overall the problem of scales as a technique is more easily learned in the second year.  This is especially true of parallel scale playing that requires control and coordination.  Having said this, again there are students who naturally acclimate to the piano keyboard.

By second or third year students need to understand how to form major and minor scale patterns with whole and half-steps.

While scale study is great for evenness of fingers and finger control, it is only one aspect of technic.  Technical training should include practice for pianissimo, fortissimo, crescendo and diminuendo, variety of tone quality, and phrasing lifts.

The two problems to solve in scale playing are turning the thumb under or crossing over the thumb, and memorizing the fingering patterns used in parallel motion.  The correct scale fingering for reach scale should be learned from the beginning.  While some teaching methods introduce only partial scales up to five fingers at first, there is no reason not to teach the full one-octave scales immediately.

Scale fingering should be memorized.  A complete book of scales at the beginner level of one or two octaves should be provided to the student for reference.  Many teachers write scale fingering in the weekly assignment book.  However, it is good practice to compel the student to learn to refer to fingering in their book.  If the student is very young, then showing their parent how to help them to use the book is important until they are old enough to work independently.

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