How and What I Teach
My lessons draw from 3 categories:
Technique & Musicianship, Repertoire, & Creative/Special skills
Creative & Advanced Skills
‣Reading/Playing by Lead Sheets
‣Pop Songs analysis; Chordal Playing (Progressions)
How I Teach:
I help students reach their goals by asking questions, giving guided instruction for next steps, and describing what to look out for when learning new material.
I instill efficient habits when practicing and having a set of strategies/plan of action to use when faced with a problem.
I demonstrate techniques/concepts at the keyboard. I want to make sure musical concepts & techniques are understood before moving on.
- Beginning student: I ask about music interests and we discuss short/long term goals. Combination of method books, short pieces, warm up exercises, and any pieces they want to learn.
- Transfer/Advanced Students are asked to play something they've learned before. We also discuss short/long term goals and what they'd like most from their lessons. Curriculum also involves some method book refreshers, short pieces/warm up exercises. Lessons are spent on more diverse repertoire, while I try to remedy any poor habits, improve technical weaknesses, and encourage expressive, musical playing.
- I assign a variety of pieces (different genres) to supplement the learning process and allow students to bring in music they want to learn. If notation is too challenging, we focus on skills and easier pieces to gradually work up to the difficulty of the piece. I can find an easier version, arrangement, or may guide them through some rote teaching.
- I stress consistent, intentional practice habits at each lesson (Lined Notebook with specific practice instructions)
- I encourage students to be actively involved in their learning. I ask students many questions about what they hear, their opinions on their own efforts, and how they feel when playing.
Questions like "On a scale of 1 to 5, how well did you think you played that part?" "What are some things you did well?" "You played that forte (loud) passage so musically-can you describe how you made it sound that way?" "Why do you think you had trouble in the left hand in that measure?" This way, students become more aware when they practice and can fix potential problems before coming to lessons. Students are free to ask questions, explain what they don't understand, and develop personal musical interpretations.
- To me, having a process & an action strategy is more important than being given quick answers.
Based on the concept of Productive Failure, long term success & learning occurs despite initial struggles. I'm not quick to correct every single mistake as it happens--rather this "wait (a bit) and see" observation gently leads students to assess what isn't working and figure out how to improve. My aim is to develop independent learners, eager to take first steps in solving problems.
I've noticed their increased determination to self-correct their mistakes. Most students quickly say, "Let me try that again!" or "Hold on...I think I got it!" before I can jump in, point out the issue and offer answers. After reviewing how to overcome challenges, students are taught how they can approach difficult passages without getting easily frustrated. Students gain problem solving independence, discover step-by-step plans to reach a goal, and take ownership of finding their solutions.
What I Teach:
I aim for a holistic approach in music learning.
Fundamental skills of note-reading & playing by ear, all with physical ease at the keyboard is taught. No genre is off-limits; all styles are welcome!
Understanding music theory & developing the inner ear (ear-training) are equally important. Chord/Lead sheet playing & basic improvisation add to the fun of creativity = exploring popular melodies, harmonies, and using the imagination.
- Note Reading & Rhythms: The ability to read music is a fundamental and important skill. Students learn musical notation in both clefs (Treble & Bass), note values, rhythms, expression markings, and the relationship between what's in the score and how to play it on the piano. From this, students can explore any (digital) sheet music they want to learn and start playing.
- Playing by Ear, Lead Sheets/Chord Playing & Basic Improvisation/Composing: With Playing by Ear, students learn to play melodies based only on what they hear; this reinforces ear training skills and helps when written music isn't available.
- Students play using chords and can create harmonies using Lead Sheet symbols. (e.g., C, C/E, Am)
The melody is (usually) played by the right hand or can be sung. This is useful for students who want to sing & play (accompany themselves), who are interested in Jazz, and/or who play Pop songs from Sheet music collections.
- Basic improvisation inspires creativity and strengthens Music Theory understanding. Students are free to create what they want and not rely on using music. They gain the ability to create personal compositions, riff off familiar tunes, or use their imagination to make up their own melodies.
- Music Theory & Music History: Analyzing Musical Concepts/Principles of notation/music (e.g., Scales, Keys, Form), ear training activities, and discussing composers and their writing style from different musical eras (e.g., Baroque, Classical, Romantic, to 20th century & today)
- Technique: Playing the piano should be pain free, easy, and fun. Playing requires the entire body (not just the fingers), from sitting correctly (especially the right height!), to proper hand position, to movements and gestures that allow coordination around the keyboard. My attention is placed on quality of sound, and quality of movement, with focus on what's being done with awareness of relaxed vs. tense playing.
- Sight-reading: Assessing a few lines of music/a piece never seen before, and being able to play what's written as accurately as possible. This is an important skill to have, when exploring new music with no audio recording for reference.