It can be a big challenge for a young beginner to connect with music notation. There are so many elements: pitch, rhythm, tempo, fingering, dynamics... Students often accidentally leave out dynamics when first playing through a piece. Sometimes the best thing to do is to help them feel the dynamics away from the page. Here's an exercise I recently used: I drew a "dynamics map" of the student's piece using the signs for crescendo and diminuendo. We listened to a recording of their piece and shaded in the dynamics shapes as the music played--making bigger crayon strokes as it got louder and smaller strokes as it got softer. It's great that the shapes we used were actual music notation symbols, but it would work well whether students had already learned these symbols or not!
The student composition below was inspired by a piece called Starry Night from 70 Keyboard Adventures of the Little Monster (Volume 2). The dark notes are fixed pitches, the stars indefinite pitches. The student called it, "Star Bright. "
A student's drawing inspired by Haydn's Farewell Symphony. Notice the empty chairs and musicians walking away!
Tomorrow is Halloween! So, when a student today asked if she could learn a Halloween piece, there really wasn't time to learn a whole new piece. Luckily, I'd read this blog post by Diane Hidy last year! I suggested to my student that we could try taking a piece she already knew and make it more Halloween-y instead. The piece was A Prairie Dog Companion from Piano Safari Level 2.
We changed the key to G minor and then she decided it would sound better in a lower register. She marked the new notes (B flats) with pumpkin stickers :-)
Thoughts on Piano Teaching
Lauren Sonder is a piano teacher in Norman, OK.
She believes in providing a well rounded musical education that emphasizes training the ear, learning music in a variety of styles, and being creatively engaged at the piano.