3 top tips for first lessons ending well

All good athletes know that whilst running the race correctly is important, what happens at the end can determine whether the race is won or lost. In other words the end needs thoughts and careful preparation.

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It’s the same for a piano lesson (see my previous posts on lesson planning). No matter how brilliant the start and middle has been, there needs to be a strong finish otherwise everyone will go away feeling a little deflated. So in the final post of the series let’s consider how to end the first lesson in a positive and meaningful manner.

MORE PLAYING

During the final part of the lesson the pupil and I go back to the piano to create some more music, this time together. This should have a little more musical coherence than the first activity so need to have a clearer idea of what we are going to play. For example, I might improvise something using a particular set of notes and within a strong rhythmic framework. You can do this on easily on black notes alternating between the chord of G flat major and E flat minor. Or, if you need some inspiration, Forrest Kinney’s Pattern Play series makes a great place to start.

Whatever pattern you choose invite your pupil to join you. S/he might need some gentle coaxing to get going but lead the way with confidence yourself and most will eventually join in. Once again make a note of any interesting information that emerges from this activity.

BY THE END

By the end of the first lesson the pupil will have had lots of enjoyable and engaging musical experiences!

  • The pupil will have played the piano and discovered that it can create different worlds and magical sounds quite easily.
  • S/he will have learnt a chant and played it on the piano.
  • She will have learnt that all music has a steady pulse to it

Most importantly, s/he will have taken her first steps towards becoming a pianist; someone who ‘plays’ the piano.

What though is s/he going to play at home?

PLAYING AT HOME

As a teacher your aim is for your young pupil to leave the first lesson full of enthusiasm for playing the piano. In addition they should have just a little more awareness of what being a pianist involves! Because you have guided the pupil through every step of the lesson, knowing what to give them to ‘practise’ should be easy.

In fact  because I know what I am going to cover in the lesson I usually prepare a ‘home’ Discovery sheet before the lesson even begins. The discovery sheet clearly states a number of activities for the pupil to do, building on what has experienced in the lesson.

For example, the sheet might have the following questions and activities:

  • What is the name of your piano?
  • How many pairs of black keys are there?
  • How many sets of 3 black keys are there?
  • Put one of your soft toys up near the high notes on your piano
  • Put another soft toy down near the low notes on your piano
  • Play Cobbler Cobbler on the higher notes with your right hand, left hand, hands together
  • Play Cobbler Cobbler on the lower notes with your right hand, left hand, hands together

On the sheet I like to include a number of statements for the pupil to tick off:

  • I can play Cobbler, Cobbler on the higher notes
  • I can play Cobbler, Cobbler on the lower notes
  • I played my piano on Monday, Tuesday (etc.)

TIME TO REFLECT

So, during the first lesson notation hasn’t made an appearance at all. This is probably rather different from your own first lesson experiences – it is certainly different from mine! So grab that coffee and just spend some time thinking back to the good and not so good things about your own first lessons. Then read through the three posts again and plan out the next first lesson you are going to give.

By planning a first piano lesson that has the act of making music at its heart you will find that both the pupil and you will be energised and inspired by the encounter.

This blog post was written by Dr. Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers.

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