PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR MESSY PIANO PART 1

It’s good to have been getting back into the swing of things this week. I started teaching again and last weekend I gave a ‘messy piano’ presentation that provided piano teachers at the EPTA UK conference in Cambridge with practical ideas for their lessons.

The focus of my talk was the new ABRSM syllabus and I explored different ways to ‘mess’ around with a couple of the pieces.

piano teaching resources

MESSY PIANO – HOW TO APPLY THIS APPROACH IN YOUR PIANO LESSONS

I know there has been interest in finding out how a messy piano approach can be applied in lessons so over the next few weeks I am going to illustrate some ideas using a different piece each week.

This week the focus is on Air from Little Russia, Op. 107, No. 3. by Beethoven. This is a Grade 1/late elementary standard piece. It is currently in the alternative list of ABRSM Grade 1 2017-18 syllabus.

Here is a performance of the piece and you can also DOWNLOAD the score.

GETTING GOING

Before I begin there are three steps I need to follow:

1. Know the score

Before I introduce a piece the first and crucial thing is to know the score. This means sitting down with it and analysing it. Doing this ‘on the hoof’ alongside the pupil  just means that your teaching will be reactive and probably rather patchy.

When researching this piece I was suprised to find Air from Little Russia is actually a piece for flute and piano! It is taken from a set of 10 National Airs by Beethoven, the others including Irish, Tyrolean and Scottish airs. Each Air has a series of variations. I am going to save ‘knowing the score’ and look at it in more detail in a later post.

2. Decide on the learning target

Once you have some idea of what the piece is made up of you can match up what is going to be the most appropriate learning target for each particular pupil. Given that Grade 1 students still tend to struggle with reading the bass clef the teaching target is: to improve accuracy and fluency of bass clef reading skills.

3. Get creative!

This is where the fun starts! Be inventive in how you can introduce and consolidate bass clef reading before you even introduce the actual piece to the pupil. I have decided to start work on this several weeks before the imaginary pupil (let’s call him Danny) even knows the piece exists.

Here is a 4 week outline with a series of short videos to help explain each point.

piano teaching resources

WEEK 1 [G]EOGRAPHY

In the first week the Learning Target is: ‘Danny will be able to play any note [LH] in a descending G major scale pattern with his eyes shut’.

WEEK 2 – [G]IDDY UP!

Next I introduce the floor stave so that ‘Danny will be able to recognise and remember where Landmark G’s live’. Using Flashnote Derby is just one way of reinforcing this and getting the pupil to practise the notes at home.

WEEK 3 – [G]ETTING A GRIP!

By now I need to get a bit of feedback about how well his understanding is connecting up with practical application. The Learning Target is ‘Danny will be able to match up the notes on the floor stave correctly. He will be able to transfer what he sees onto the piano’.

WEEK 4 – READY, STEADY, [G]O!

After 4 weeks it is now time to link the note reading to the piece. Danny will see the LH part for the first time and the aim is for him ‘to be able to identify target notes easily on the score’.

BLOG COMPETITION!

As you will have seen in the week 2 and 3 videos I have used a floor stave called a Manu-Mat. We are delighted that the makers of Manu-Mat are offering one Notation Mat Starter Kit as a giveaway this week!

PLUS – everyone who enters the competition will receive a 15% discount coupon code (valid until 31 October) to use across the entire range of products available on the Manu-Mat website.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE COMPETITION NOW

Join me for next week’s post when I will ‘mess’ around with The Stowaway by Stanley Wilson (it can be found in the Grade 2 2017-18 ABRSM piano syllabus).

 

This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart | Co-Founder The Curious Piano Teachers

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4 thoughts on “PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR MESSY PIANO PART 1

  1. David F

    This is great, thank you. I’m curious about the name ‘messy piano’. It doesn’t seem at all messy to me, on the contrary, highly organised.

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    I always plan my lessons. I believe in ensuring pupils have a sound knowledge of bass clef before introducing graded music. Although I can see the merits of this approach surely music should be at the heart of teaching – sound before sight?

    Reply
  3. Kylie

    Hey I love your ideas but just wondering how it really works in lessons.. If you break down one piece of music into learning steps – then do one learning step per week, then you end up with a bunch of different pieces you are moving towards each week – but then the lesson in itself is a bunch of different unrelated learning steps leading to various pieces. Do you somehow get your lessons to gel as a whole but still be working towards lots of new repertoire? I’m introducing so much new repertoire per week here (anything from 1- 4 new pieces a week) that I can’t keep up with preparing it in advance (I actually tried to do that last term and never pulled it off) – it tends to all get chaotic. It takes the whole 45 minutes just to hear the assigned pieces and learn the new pieces. Especially for the kids who also do sight reading cards and technique book. So when I plan in advance to do prep work for other future pieces i don’t get time for it. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
    1. Sally

      Hi Kylie, it sounds as though you are trying out lots of different approaches which is great! I really don’t think that there is a ‘perfect’ solution to lesson planning – for me it is always a question of being work in progress and a sense that I could be doing it differently/better!! What I have found is that if a lesson has a clear learning focus (two max) then I can fit whatever happens with the repertoire around it. So, to take the lesson target from the blog – LH note reading – I would be looking for opportunities to reinforce the learning whatever else happened in the lesson. We can only plan so much for a lesson – the bits in between are where we need to be creative and curious teachers!!

      Reply

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