Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thoughtful Preparation in Piano Practice

 This month in my studio "Quest for Virtues" our focus is on thoughtfully preparing before playing pieces or technical exercises.
Its not easy for many students to resist the temptation to just jump into a new piece without first preparing mentally.  So each week during lab or lesson time I am challenging them to some preparation tasks that can hopefully pave the way for them to become more fluent at technical skills, sightreading, efficient practice and portraying their pieces more artistically and accurately.

  •    Before playing scales, identify the sharps or flats in the key, draw the scale and key signature on the staff and identify the correct fingering for each hand.
  •  Analyze a piece by identifying chords (I, IV, V, etc.), phrase endings (wrist float-offs), form, dynamics (color) and the climax of the piece. (See Hand Over the Pencil)
  • Imagine your piece is telling a story.  Divide it into sections and add labels that reflect characteristics of each section of the music. (See Practice Strategies)
  •   Follow the steps for mental preparation before sightreading a piece (See Developing Super Sightreaders)
    o   Identify key and music symbols 
    o    Look for patterns in rhythm and melody 
    o    Audiate (hear it in your head) the melody of the music before playing 
    o    Ghost play challenging spots.
Although thoughtful preparation requires discipline, it saves so much time in the long run as practice becomes more productive and efficient.

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  1. Hi Heidi, I just came across your blog and I'm really excited to have a resource that has some many great ideas. I just started teaching piano lessons this year and am now up to 12 students. I've been looking to spice up lessons a bit by incorporating some activities instead of just working straight through the books. There are A LOT of resources on this site, and I'm finding myself easily overwhelmed and don't know where to start. How do you suggest I get started? Any absolute must-have resources, games, ideas? Feel free to email me if that is easier: chelseejensen@hotmail.com. Thanks!!!

    1. Chelsee,
      I would start with the Faber videos (link on my Piano Teaching 101 post). I find Nancy's teaching style very inspiring and full of ideas presented in a logical order on how to liven up lessons even if I don't use the Faber books with all students. Next I suggest browsing the game resource list (tab at the top) to choose activities specific to the concepts you are teaching each week. My favorite activity links are on the "Spicing Up..." Tab at the top, but just like pinterest, I find the wealth of piano teaching blogger's ideas so fascinating that its easy to get sucked in for hours :) Probably my most used printable tools are a simple staff/keyboard printable in a sheet protector (Susan Paradis.com) and my silly putty rhythm beat boards (Pianimation.com). Good Luck and Happy Teaching!