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#933466 - 12/06/07 02:52 PM First lessons..
wannasteinway Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/05
Posts: 69
Loc: California
..How do you give a new students first lesson. What do you cover?..etc.. Im having a hard time thinking of a way to start it off for a total beginner.

Thanks for your much needed help!

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#933467 - 12/06/07 03:25 PM Re: First lessons..
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
What comes first in thinking about the piano?

What comes first in accessing the piano with the body?

What do we have to know as information?

From the perspective of the absolute beginner - an orientation to the fingers, keyboard, and alphabet.

Start with long notes values moving to shorter note values - limit the playing area to keep an introductory location on the piano - don't go distance and big intervals.

Conjunct movement comes before disjunct movement.

Be well prepared by looking through the methods and finding out what you think is the first and logical steps.

How old is the student? How is the attention span? What do you have to do to get and keep their interest.

Choose short, simple songs at first.

Keep a steady beat above all.

You can't "wing" this part, you have to be "knowing" and informed. The first teacher is the most important teacher. Be that teacher.

Search on: first lesson, beginner, and any other word which comes to mind, and read the archives. Search button is at top under new topic. Try Piano Teacher's Forum first.


#933468 - 12/06/07 10:45 PM Re: First lessons..
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12571
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I would be sure to cover the basics of the piano. Open it up and let them see how it works, what the pedals do, etc. Then show them how to sit properly, distance from the keys, feet flat on the floor (or a box or stool for their feet), straight back, and naturally curved fingers. If the parent is there, talk to them also about making sure they can do this at home.

Do you have a method book you'd like to use? I find they organize things very nicely and consistently, and you can always make your own adjustments to them once you get more experienced in teaching. I recommend Hal Leonard or Faber's Piano Adventures. If they are young (5 or 6), start them out in My First Piano Adventures. These books are great fun!

Be sure to get the Lessons, solos and Theory books for Hal Leonard or Piano Adventures, and the Lessons & Writing books for My First Piano Adventures if you go that route. That way they have more repertoire to help reinforce newly learned concepts.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#933469 - 12/06/07 11:00 PM Re: First lessons..
wannasteinway Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/05
Posts: 69
Loc: California
I believe shes about 10-ish...?? So attention span is alright for 30 minute lesson.

I do have a method book. Im using John Thomspons easiest piano course. Do you have any criticism on it? If i see its not matching up to her style, i'll be sure to change it.

#933470 - 12/07/07 09:32 AM Re: First lessons..
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12571
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I do actually. While it was very pioneering at the time, Piano Pedagogy has come a long way since then. I learned on those books, and I remember hating them, so perhaps I'm biased. But I think they advance far too quickly for most kids. However, since yours is starting at age 10 and is a girl, I think she may do alright.

What I like about most modern methods is that they start kids on black keys, which are easier to find, and they start with pre-staff notation. This really solidifies reading finger numbers at first, then they wean them off of that and work on more intervallic reading. Then they do some note name reading, all before putting the notes on a staff. This makes the transition to note reading much smoother and easier for kids. Also, the methods I recommended do not work on hands in finger positions, so this allows the kids to have different fingers on different notes, which most later music does. This also emphasizes the note reading ability, rather than the child simply asking "what position is this in?" and once their hands are there, the note reading shuts off in their mind. These other methods encourage students to read the first note of each hand, and then put the designated finger number on that note, as well as moving around the keyboard outside of 5 finger patterns.

These are just some of the benefits that I've seen. It might be worth looking into if not for this student, then for the next.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#933471 - 12/07/07 10:09 AM Re: First lessons..
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
There is nothing wrong with teaching by positions - as in the keyboard graphics in many 5 Finger Position books for beginners. Most of that music is also written with duet accompaniments, and it is a good idea to establish duets with the teacher as a large part of what we do at lessons. It provides a great feeling of success to have the music so full or sound and rhythms, and it encourages steady beat and accuracy in that you have to start, together, stay together, and end together.

Five finger positions are not only the 12 Major parallel positions, but any positions sharing thumbs on a common note, then, it also includes adjacent thumbs with 5 fingers in each hand. This helps expand the range until all notes from C (Bass Clef) to Middle C to C (Treble Clef).

It is important that students learn to have an impulse from a finger as they recognize the note name, the note itself by symbol, or the finger number of the note. Every where in music, a finger (10 fingers) is making a choice that it should play on a specific note.

It makes great sense to me that a student should learn conjunct (stepwise) melodies, before learning disjunct melodies (skips). It is also a great benefit for students to quickly recognize repeated notes and how many are in the pattern.

Reading from keyboard positions with fingering as essential means of deciding which notes to play is the first step of reading - Distance and Direction - Intervalic Approach. Up, down, same?

It also helps the student to learn to sing the notes accurately. One should not ignore all the benefits that happen naturally in this type of music. One melody note distributed over 2 hands (left and right need to be emphasized in some children, as they get very lost choosing which hand)is a wonderful way to encourage the use of the left hand. And the working of the brain between the right side and the left side, because we NEED music like this for development.

It has little to do with naming notes on the music staff immediately, that can be done as a separate project finding notes on the keyboard with flashcards or sight reading or rhythm reading (such as Allan Small's Basic Timing).

Recognition of the note names on the staff come into place best through using them fluently on the keyboard with your fingering skills, without necessarily using the letter names - knowing the letter names of the notes in the position you are using when you start is enough information.

Use brings them all into sense (A-G) on the keyboard through fingering every note. Then they start to morph into letter names as well as fingering.

To me the first step is orientation to the keyboard, reliably having a quick finger choice as the next note appears, with a planned duration. That is quite enough thinking going on in beginner steps. A letter name would very much slow the process, and even become an obstacle.

When reading advanced, we don't think letter names, we readily arrive and execute the process instantly. Little thinking is going on, it is an automatic process. If you want to get your student's to automatic quickly, the way I am describing works best.

You could start in pre-chart music where forward motion,eye movement training, and basic instincts
are easily decided and implemented.

Introducing the music staff too soon is very confusing to many.

I have used this system in my "Piano Power" method for over 20 years. And, it works very well. We finish up the basic notation and fundamental skills quite soon, and the students are launched into reading by distance and direction. Note names are emphasized and studied, and now they really make sense to students (all ages).

I would encourage more teachers to examine this approach. I can usually get them launced into independent work at this level in 10 lessons. By 10 lessons, I'm able to tell what strengths and weaknesses in thinking and doing this student has.

The best part of this after early launching of the student is that the teacher does not have much to correct, the students become highly accurate, a little review and reexamining the "intentions" of the music, set things straight. You have taught the student to obey fingering, count accurately, recognize patterns both in pitch and in duration, and you have given both hands a complete workout one finger at a time.

Hands are put together very soon, and the pairing makes sense. (I have a color coded "partner system" using T - L - R.

Rhythm - "Magic Counting" of note values are expressed in pulses.

Tell them what they need to know when they need to know it. What is the next step in the sequence?


#933472 - 12/07/07 10:25 AM Re: First lessons..
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12571
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
So when are you going to publish your method for us to use? \:D

My experience with most transfer students who come to me after using a method that starts them out in hand positions is that they are weak readers and rely on being told what hand position to start in, long after hand positions are necessary. It could be the fault of those method books in how they approach it, rather than the fault of the finger positions themselves.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#933473 - 12/07/07 07:17 PM Re: First lessons..
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington

Any day, now! Don't I wish!

How are you doing?



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