Going back to the contents of my teaching pencil-case, let’s talk about “colouring-in”. I don’t mean the mindfulness colouring books which are the current fashion!
Here’s an example – the ABRSM Grade 5 piano piece, “Tarantella”
At first sight, the student I was teaching found it hugely intimidating. I copied the first page from her book – Whoa – copying? Let me explain; I absolutely insist on my pupils all having their own copies of all the exam pieces for copyright reasons, but if I want to do Big Writing and Colouring all over the music, I will do it on a copy in order to avoid covering the original in so many markings that in the end you can’t see the notes.
So, together, we went through the first page, and started colouring passages that were repeated:
So, all the sections in the right hand coloured green are the same – although the octave may be different. The two different left hand accompaniments are green, but shaded differently. Then there is a repeated blue phrase, a repeated red phrase, and a repeated purple phrase (red + blue makes purple, sort of) which stars like the green phrase.
Suddenly, the structure and patterns become obvious; the over-load of notes shape themselves into do-able units, and the volume of learning required comes back into focus.
I was never taught like this – but I think that I was quicker to recognise patterns, and assimilate the learning than many of my pupils. I remember the teacher who taught me to become a teacher pointing out that most students won’t have the knack for learning piano (I am avoiding the word “talent” as that is only part of the equation) to the same degree as the teacher; that is why we have become teachers, and they probably won’t.
So, anything that simplifies the task of learning a piece thoroughly, promotes understanding of the structure, and encourages confidence and fluency, has to be Good. It eliminates a lot of the difficulty, and leaves more “brain-space” for working on interpretation, dynamics, musicality – the really important part of playing the piano (or whatever it is they are studying).
Have a go – colour in the different parts of a fugue, the various chord shapes, the broad-brush dynamics, all the intervals of an octave – whatever it is that you want to focus on. Even better, get the student to do their own colouring as part of their practise. Maybe just not all on the same copy, at the same time?