When I first started to teach the piano a tutor book was fairly central to my teaching for beginners. These days however the opposite is the case and I do without a 'book' for at least couple of terms. That's not to say that pupils have nothing to take home with them - they do but in the form of resources and sheets I create.
So here are some of the things that I might do in those vital, early lessons:
- Make music together! My approach to this was transformed recently when I went to a workshop led by Forrest Kinney who is responsible for Pattern Play. Using one of his patterns the pupil is invited to 'play with me'. I have created my own pattern for this blog accompanied by a picture to help the imagination flow.
- It is interesting how much you find out about the musical and technical skills of your new pupil through doing this. Can they feel the pulse? Is there any shape to what they play? Do their fingers stick out like sausages!? At this stage I find it is best to just be curious about what happens rather than trying to put things right.
- More music-making, this time through doing a simple rhyme/song. One of my favourites is Jelly on a Plate. With my other hat on as an Advisory Teacher for the Voices Foundation I am aware that many children are no longer singing at home in the same way as they used to. As a piano teacher you might feel that it is not your responsibility to teach your pupils to sing and yet singing is at the heart of all we do as musicians. It helps to develop inner hearing like nothing else can, as singing is the most direct experience of music we can have. So I recommend singing from the first lesson onwards! Pupils might need encouraging to join in but if you make it fun enough they quickly forget their inhibitions.
- Listening to music - I always play a piece of music to pupils. It is usually something simple and something they have probably heard in the past, for example Fur Elise (I know, but the point is that for them this is something they are likely to be able to relate to) but really any easy Classical piece will do. The important thing is that they learn to listen and engage with the music and see the notation and you playing from it.
Well that's just a few ideas to kick off with. I shall return to this topic in the autumn when I am going to write a weekly post about teaching beginners.
In my next post I shall be sharing my research and ideas for what tutor books should contain.