I’m about to post a series of ‘things-to-do’, ‘places-to-go’ for pianists to have a mess-about with over the next few weeks while I’m at home and you are all at home and piano lessons are just not happening.
I’ll try and give them a sort of ‘level’, Beginner, Prep, 1, 2 etc, roughly linked to what I think you would be able to manage if you are at that level.
But please, be adventurous! Try something out at a higher or lower level if that’s what you’d like to do!
Right, I’m assuming that you can find A on the piano keyboard… Skip the next paragraph if you know your ‘A’s.
Forgotten? OK no worries. Can you remember C? No? Here we go.
First, look for the TWO BLACK NOTES, not the the three black notes. The one in the middle of the pair of black notes is D, as in D for DOG. So, the note to the left is C for CAT,, move another step down and you will get B for, now, what could B be for…, Oh yeah, BEE! Another step down is A. Check your A against this picture; A for…. you choose.
So, as a warm up, play all the As on your keyboard, up and down.
Now, play them all with your thumbs, left or right, up and down.
Finally, choose an A for your left hand thumb, and one for your right hand thumb. Lay your other fingers neatly on the keys so that you look like a pianist. Count a steady 1 2 3 4, and on the first count, play your left A, and on the third count, play your right A; A sh A sh
On music, it looks like the first four bars of the music below.
Try going left A on count 1, and two right As; A sh A A that’s the next four bars
Try A sh AAA – woah! have you noticed that the first of the right hand As are joined together? They are quavers, making the same rhythm as the words ‘jelly bean’
What happens next? Aha, the right hand is playing A B; use finger 2 for B .
At bat 21, all the right hand notes are joined together. And you will need finger 3! The rhythm here is jellyjelly. Or make up your own words.
Oh no! The right hand notes have disappeared at the end? What will you do? Stop, or make up new tunes?
Now, this is just the beginning. Watch out for a ‘next steps’ post in a few days.
Many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and pianos were carved from stone, I used to watch a programme called ‘The Magic Roundabout’.
In one episode Dougal the Dog played the Blues, and I spent quite some time trying to work out the tune. It went something like this;
Don’t play it too fast; it’s meant to be really laid-back. I’ve added a few twiddles in the last two lines – you can ‘twiddle’ this piece around as much as you like. I can’t find a drawing of a dog so here’s a monkey instead.
And here’s the third post in the Piano Time series!
You can find the extra pieces for the Oxford University Press series Piano Time 3 here. The pieces start at about Grade 1, and are heading towards Grade 2, so will be a bit more of a challenge to explore on your own.
The little gavotte by Duncombe, on page 7, uses ‘triplets’; three quavers played instead of 2 quavers in just one beat. There are different ways of trying to count this; the 0ythm of the first two bars fits the words
‘Ann, Angela, Ann Angela’. Try saying this as you play. Then the next two bars would fit the words ‘Anna Anna Anna Anna’ Make sure that the ‘An’ part of each word starts exactly on the beat, and the notes in ‘Angela’ are absolutely even. You can here it on youtube here.
Here is the link to the extra pieces available from the Oxford University series Piano Time book 2.
The piece on page 2 looks rather complicated; but if you look carefully, you will see that you only play the very top line; someone else has to find their way through the other notes! Using the high notes, play CDE with your left hand, and the next three black notes with your right hand, softly and spookily, as fast or as slow as you like, and hold the right pedal down all the time each time you play your notes.
Listen carefully in during the rests, and follow the dynamics (louds and softs) carefully. Use your imagination to paint a picture!
This is a popular tutor book for beginners, starting from ‘where is middle C’ and going as far as using all the lines and spaces on the music for both hands. As well as the pieces included in the book, there are extras pieces which you download from the official Piano Time website here at the Oxford University Press.
The first six pages use the notes you can play with both thumbs on middle C. Later pages pages will need you to know more notes.
Even if you have been learning for a while, it is still worth having a play through these beginner pieces. The more new music you play, the better you will get at reading the notes!
I have had four reminders recently of the importance of teaching and learning s-l-o-w-l-y.
On Saturday I had a gap between students at the Music Centre, and filled it with some long-overdue piano practice. First I checked out a couple of pieces that might suit a new student. I’m not sure what level they are playing at, but there are issues with learning style and technique that I want to address before starting exam pieces. I barged through the pieces and discovered that they had some unexpected intricacies… time to stop and take it slower!
Then I worked on a couple of Czerny ‘School of velocity’ studies, and, remembering my sight-reading mishaps, started at a definitely Andante tempo.
This morning, I read two blog posts; this one from www.pianodao.com
which discusses the importance of slow practice and reinforced what I had just been thinking,
and this one from www.smartclassroommanagement.com
This last post is a timely reminder of something that I learned quite late in my teaching life. I am always so worried about boring my class, and losing their attention, that I tend to teach too fast, too loudly, too energetically. But that is not always the best way… ‘slow’ teaching can give the children a chance to absorb and reflect. Of course, it is possible to teach toooo slowly…. Also, I have also found that sometimes adding to the energy levels in the class gets everyone over-excited, and keeping things steady results in getting more done.
As music teachers we are very lucky; our subject is fascinating and the instruments are energising enough on their own – we don’t need to ‘sell’ it to the students, at least not most of the time!