piano, piano instruction, piano pedagogy, piano teaching

Deviating from the Piano Method Book to custom fit the child

In the course of page turning through The Music Tree, Time to Begin, I’m in agreement pedagogically with the early exposure of twin black note playing, enlisting alternating hands, using fingers 2 or 3. This route also provides a sound vehicle for teaching fundamental note values: quarters and half notes, with a pre-notational designation of hand use by stems up (RH) and stems down (LH).

However, after observing my piano student, Liz, during the course of three lessons, my inclination is not to dwell too long on TWIN black note playing with fingers 2 or 3. Instead I’ve decided to branch out and introduce three-black note combinations that include finger 2, 3, 4 in each hand. To this effect, I’ve borrowed a few pieces from Faber Piano Adventures: “The Walking Song,” “The I Like Song,” and “I Hear the Echo.” I plan to record teacher accompaniments for the child to enrich her practicing with a harmonic underpinning. (She will do introductory clapping to introduce tempo and a steady pulse)

As a warm-up to the aforementioned pieces, I’ve created a “Stepping Up” piece on twin black notes, (fingers 3,2 LH and 2,3 RH) dividing the keyboard in half to comport with a bass/treble division, and “Stepping Down” that reverses the direction of notes. This exercise, rhythm-framed, uses a LEGATO touch between consecutive fingers. (a new undertaking)

The same approach applies to traversing the keyboard over triple black notes using fingers 2,3,4 in the RH, and separately 4, 3, 2 in the LH. Again a framing rhythm and legato touch are the goals of this excursion. Built into this exercise is an inversion of the notes in a DESCENDING journey)


Today the student explored the musical alphabet. (ABCDEFG).

In both Time to Begin and Piano Adventures (“The Pecking Hen”) there are ample opportunities to name the sequence of 7 letters in repetitions all over the keyboard. (the word “octave” is introduced in this exploration).

Today Liz played C, D, E using fingers, 4, 3, 2 (LH)
and separately 2, 3, 4 (RH) during a four-octave span–She then reversed the journey in the opposite direction.

The same occurred with the balance of the musical alphabet as follows:
F G (with 3, 2 LH), A B (with 2, 3 RH) played LEGATO in quarter notes with a hand over hand progression. The exercise became a springboard for a second composing opportunity that included discovery and use of the sustain pedal.

Liz’s initial composing activity continued with an enlarged framing.

My teacher accompaniment had been added to the student’s piece that is shown below in a pre-notational representation that inserted the names of white notes.

Liz piece notation

We also experimented with an alternate style of accompaniment that complemented the rendering of the same short composition with staccato articulation on the quarter notes. (giving it a Spanish flavor)

Future Composing Activity:

I’ve assigned a two-phrase piece, that should be in groups of 4, using quarters and half notes.

FG AB: LH 2, 3, RH 2,3 (The piece is to encompass “two octaves,” use quarters and half notes; and should contain an echo.)

Given this student’s current musical knowledge, she will be able to float and name the notes while also notating the rhythm on paper.

Finally, in composing and other activities, the singing tone is emphasized and reinforced with demonstrations of the supple wrist, relaxed, floating arms, and a framing pulse.

OVERALL plan: To move to the partial staff sooner than later. I favor this Time to Begin approach as compared to the content of most Method Books that prematurely present the complete Grand Staff, and habituate students to five-finger positions that often compromise note reading progress.

Nonetheless, I’m not averse to borrowing parts of teaching materials that have pedagogical value and make up for the shortcomings of one or another piano “method.”





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