Sunday, June 13, 2010
"Play Piano in All Keys": From the first piano lesson to playing fantastic1
Playing Piano in all Keys is EASY!
For me, as a teacher, I will always ask the question: "How do I get my students to a proficient level as quickly as possible?" - and I truly believe, the missing link is in the early start, the very beginning months of learning to play piano.
I used to, just like every other piano teacher, start with one or the other method book, attempting to teach the basics of LEARNING NOTES and PLAY A LITTLE. Or simplify playing pieces, just to start playing immediately. After 10 years of literally taking students through over 200 10-20 piece programs in the National Guild auditions, I have updated my strategy.
I feel the first weeks and months while a new student (any age and level) starts to learn to decipher baby pieces, learns the musical symbols (notes, Grand Staff, rhythms,...) these are the most important times. There is nothing wrong with this way of starting a piano student, everyone works that way, one way or another.
BUT - THERE IS A BETTER WAY!
Learning the musical symbols takes time. Many teachers opt to "teach" one little piece a week, the progress is marginal. students after 2 years of lessons play in the second level method books - and are still struggling with weak fingers.
THE MISSING LINK:
Simply put, you must train fingers, fingers must be taught to move, the motions of the arm need to be taught, how to relax the forearm and the shoulders must be taught. THE MOTIONS of PLAYING MUST BE TAUGHT! This has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SKILL OF READING NOTES. Frankly, reading notes will only be an initial hindrance to fully focus on the motions of PLAYING. How are the motions of PLAYING PIANO taught? You must learn the basics of scales, arpeggios and then chords / cadences.
I remember, when I started my piano lessons. The lesson book was either too easy or too difficult (The Beyer Preparatory School) - I had to learn notes to play, I had to immediately learn key signatures to play in other keys. I was extremely frustrated when I had to put hands together and read notes at the same time. And all I wanted was to play really well. 48 years later, today, I have resolved this issue. "Play Piano in All Keys" is the answer to this problem. EVERY STUDENTS ANY AGE CAN LEARN TO PLAY and play accurately.
How does it work?
Yes, at the same time we start playing the usual way with some method book or another - they all teach the same things from day 1 on - at the same time we take time to only focus on the motion of playing. I use fingering charts that teach which finger goes on which key! Yes, we start with the white keys, simple: RH finger 1 on C, finger 2 on D, finger 3 on E, finger 1 turns under on F, finger 2 on G, finger 3 on A, finger 4 on B, finger 5 on C. Now, we go down: finger 4 on B, finger 3 on A, finger 2 on G, finger 1 on F, finger 3 turn over the thumb on E, finger 2 on D, finger 1 on C. The charts are set up, so you can see the finger number in HUGE LETTERS. The white keys are white, black keys are black. OK, C Major is on white keys.
Then you learn the left hand, the same way.
This way, you are ALLOWED TO FOCUS ON WHAT IS IMPORTANT! MOVING YOUR FINGERS! Concentrating on which finger goes on which key, the co-ordination of right hand - left hand once you play hands together! The added difficulty of READING IS REMOVED! Finally, a way to start playing, to start practicing the motions and know you are doing it right!. No, you do not need to have piano lessons for a year to play the C Major scale finally.
And by the way, the moment you can play 1 octave C Major, you are adding the second octave in C Major hands separately, then together. YOU ARE WORKING THE FINGERS! Fantastic! From day 1 on! While you are learning to "read" the musical symbols.
And in order to keep your mind from getting bored, as soon as you have mastered the C Major scale, you are moving on to playing the C Harmonic Minor scale! The E key becomes the E flat key and the A key becomes the A flat key! Same motion, same fingering. Within a few days, you can play two scales. Then you can add arpeggios, a little finger gymnastics - very easy, learn the motion of the thumb turn right away. EASY!
The charts also teach immediately the correct name for the next key to play. you will not accidentally mis-name the scale keys F, G, A, A sharp, C,... no, you learn immediately to see the note names correctly: F, G, A, B flat, C,....
"Play Piano in All Keys" includes ALL Major, Harmonic Melodic, Natural Minors SCALES AND ACCURATE FINGERING, ALL PRIMARY TRIADS, INVERSIONS, I-IV-I-V-I cadences in root and 1st and 2nd inversions and all Tonic Major and Tonic Minor Arpeggios in 3 positions. All enharmonic scales are included!
What are the results: Usually after 6 months my students can play all whites keys 4 octave scales in slow and medium speeds which in a conventional way is learned in the 6th or 7th year of playing. And typically, since they learn to move the fingers and practice right - left co-ordination, their reading skills come along quickly, because the physical motions are already rehearsed. After 1 year of lessons my 9 or 10 year old students test in Level 3 in the MTAC Certificate of Merit (TM), a 4th year exam, besides their National Guild 10 piece programs (that include scales, chords / cadences and arpeggios). And they practice 20 minutes - 1 hour a day.
I wish, I had had this book to learn piano when I started to play piano almost 50 years ago, it would have made all practicing, all Conservatory requirements so much easier.
All the best and let's PLAY PIANO! Eva