Piano Teacher World

A Year in Recap: News, Happenings, and Impact

Dear Piano Teacher,

OK, OK, I’m a total copycat! I admit it. This is not an original idea. Last year, Leila Viss wrote a post called 40 Trendsetting Piano Teaching Resources that she compiled along with her friend Marie Lee (which included Friday Finds B.T.W. 🙂 and I absolutely loved it.

So, I started making a list of items that impacted me this past year and the list just started flowing. As the list evolved, it started to include not just specific events, items, and products that impacted me, or that I “discovered,” but items and happenings that I would consider “big news” in piano teacher world.

In alphabetical order…

 

In Piano Teacher News

Big changes at The Francis Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy

There’s lots going on at The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy! Not only did they hire a new Full-Time Executive Director in October 2017 (Dr. Jennifer Snow), but in December 2017 they appointed Ryan Greene as the new Director of NCKP (National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy).

 

Carol Matz’s inter@ctive Piano Method

Composer Carol Matz wrote and published a new method that has online interactive materials.

 

Colourful Keys Quick Clips

After attending NCKP this summer and seeing all the wonderful teaching demonstrations, Irish piano teacher Nicola Canton began posting short clips of her own teaching on her blog Colourfulkeys.ie.

Continue reading

Colors of the Rainbow

A review of Ready for Theory

Recently a teacher-friend told me that I “dress my type.” Of course, this made me crane my neck a bit and look at her with a quizzical expression wondering if this were a good or bad thing.

“I’m pretty sure you’re a Type 4 which means you wear a lot of bold solid colors,” she explained.

At the time I had a bright red dress on. Hmmm…maybe she’s onto something.

“Perhaps,” I said, “but I also wear a LOT of blacks.”

“Actually,” she countered, “type 4 also wears a lot of blacks!”

Well there you go, apparently, I’m a type 4, and I’m doing pretty good on my wardrobe – she wins! LOL.

 

Bright, Bold, Clean, and Beautiful

What does this short story have to do with my review? Not a whole lot except that solid, bright colors are what first drew me to this beautiful theory course. Maybe my friend WAS onto something. 🙂

Calling a theory course “beautiful” may be stretching it I know, but when it comes to theory books (or any sheet music/method books for that matter), appearance goes a long way with me.

In fact, in a Friday Finds last year, I called Lauren Lewandowski’s Ready for Theory books “the prettiest theory books I had ever seen.”

Don’t you agree?

They’re the colors of the rainbow – what student wouldn’t be drawn to that?!

Continue reading

Teaching “Why’s” and “What’s”

Today I just felt like sharing a random reflection on a couple of teaching moments this week.

 

Student #1

A student in Piano Safari Level 3 was playing the three forms of the D minor scale. She played beautifully, hands separately at a nice pace of mm.=200 (quarter note). Before we moved on to the next exercise, I wanted to make sure she understood some of the why’s and what’s.

Why is it called the natural minor?
(Because it’s in it’s most natural “raw” state – using the same pitches as its related major).

Why do we change one note in the harmonic minor?
(So we can create a leading tone which makes the scale feel more like it leads back to the resting tone “home.”  This also makes our Dominant (V) chord major rather than minor.)

What notes are altered in the ascending melodic minor scale?
(The 6th and the 7th, making the scale start sounding minor but finishing sounding major).

What scale do we essentially play as we descend in the melodic minor?
(The natural minor scale)

I ask a lot of the same questions every time we study new keys.

At first, the questions are completely new, and I’m mostly telling and explaining.

After a few key studies, they seem to recall that they know the answer, they just can’t articulate it in full – this is where “teacher mode” comes in. Ask the question and pause to give them a minute to think. They will often begin to answer but stumble like they can’t get the words out. At this point, I begin stating the answer and they sort of “join in” as they’re shaking their head in recollection.

Eventually, they can articulate it completely on their own.

 

Student #2

A student is working on a praise hit, “One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)” from Alfred’s Praise Hit’s Complete, Book 2.

There’s a scalar passage leading into the beginning of a phrase. She’s hopping her fingers, rather than crossing under, causing a break in the phrase. I have her circle the finger number where she needs to cross under, and ask:

Why should we not hop here?
(Student: “because the music tells us to use finger three.”)
While this is true, the more important reason and I demonstrate to the student… Would we sing it like this?

“This one…” INSERT A DRAMATIC BIG BREATH  “…thing remains.”?

The student always gets a chuckle when they realize how silly that sounds. Point made.

 

Execution is not the only goal, make sure they understand (and can articulate) WHY – the bigger picture.