Piano Lessons: The Raw adult beginner

I use the term “raw” to describe adult piano students who don’t read music or play by ear. They often come to their first lesson oozing with enthusiasm, but harboring fears associated with success and failure themes. It’s the usual environmental humdrum we all know about that puts the business paradigm squarely at odds with an artistic, self-realizing pursuit. But I’ll table what I previously explored.

In this writing I’m focused on the approach to early instruction and the materials selected.

Over years of teaching, I’d found myself gravitating toward Randall Faber’s Accelerated Older Beginner Lesson Book, though in many instances it moved far too quickly, not providing enough unencumbered opportunities to work on the piano’s singing tone repository. (And it had a built-in primordial prejudice against black notes)

To the contrary, Faber’s Piano Adventures, Primer Lesson Book, that’s supposedly assigned to children at the outset of their music education, worked a lot better with brand new adult students of the “virgin” variety.

Faber Lesson book Primer

The earliest Primer pieces (in both the Lesson and Performance books) are launched on the ebonies, (persisting to advantage) and these attach finger numbers and floating notes. There’s no staff as yet, but the feel of melodic movement as reflected in the preliminary notation, is like pablum to an infant– it’s digestible.

Of more importance, is the musical quality and substance of these black-note pieces that engage both hands from the outset in alternating sequence.

Faber is a gifted pianist and composer. He and wife Nancy have provided good music and lovely accompaniments in pupil/teacher duet format that are doubly enticing for a new student.

With Method books, in general, however I shy away from the addiction associated with them–i.e. an unrelenting march from primer to 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, etc. and into a chasm of so-called fixed positions that are play-by-finger-number crutches.

But if the entree to learning allows the teacher to explore the singing tone without too many notational/staff obstacles, then it’s a great launch pad to diversified content with the eventual cross-fertilization of other sources. (I should add that transposing should be an ingredient of all instruction, and not delayed–so that what a teacher does with instructional materials becomes a clever, creative improvisation, not a prepackaged, beat-a-dead-horse to the ground undertaking.)

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The following snatch of a SECOND lesson with a NEWBIE makes the point loud and clear, that even from day one, the singing tone and how to produce it must be at the fore of the piano learning process.

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LINKS

About Prejudice against black notes

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/bias-against-black-notes-stopped-me-in-my-tracks-video/

Starting Lessons with a new Adult Student (but not a raw beginner)
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/starting-lessons-with-a-new-adult-piano-student/

Adult Piano Themes and Issues
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/adult-piano-student-themes-and-issues/

Are Adult Students Stigmatized?
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/are-adult-piano-students-stigmatized/

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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2 Responses to Piano Lessons: The Raw adult beginner

  1. timtopham says:

    Great post, Shirley. I must say that I probably don’t spend quite enough time on the minutiae of a “singing tone” with adult beginners as my goal is to get them playing as much music as possible (often with pop, chords as much as classical) in order to keep them interested from the beginning. I find that these movements and phrasing can develop as they go. The sort of adult beginners I attract seem to need instant action in order to keep focussed!

    Like

  2. All ideas are welcomed. I always focus on the singing tone regardless of student’s age or level.

    Like

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