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!
Had a lot of fun playing duets with Jennifer Tripi at the Norman Public Library last week. We wore blue tulle in our hair to represent water, since we were playing two water themed pieces: En Bateau by Debussy and Night by the Sea by MacDowell. Thanks to Mary Sallee and the Norman Area Music Teachers Association for putting this event together!
Tried something new last weekend! A Skype masterclass with a teacher from New York, Benjamin Steinhardt. It went well and Benjamin was so great to work with. Here's a photo of him working with all three students together on a quick technical exercise:
A barcarole is a Venetian boat song, usually in 6/8 meter. Here is a lovely Barcarole by living composer David Duke (b. 1950):
A lot of skills in a simple piece: playing from a lead sheet (from Forrest Kinney's Chord Play), playing legato in the right hand with non-legato chords in the left hand, shaping long phrases, playing dotted rhythms, bringing out the melody...
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. "
This student's composition, an assignment from his book Tales of a Musical Journey by Irina Gorin, had some mixed meter patterns and I thought it would be cool to harmonize it. He really enjoyed the sound and called it, "The Magical Forest."
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.