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Ear Training and Transposing are intrinsic to piano lessons (examples from an Adult lesson in progress)

It’s not easy to plan a one hour piano lesson to include ear training, solfege and transposing. (They belong together, bundled with Theory, and enrich the learning environment)

At the Oberlin Conservatory, Theory, Keyboard Harmony, and Eurhythmics were taught separately. Our piano teachers (applied study) adhered to their rigid routine, rarely fitting solfege, sight-reading, improvising, composing etc. into the time-limited hour. Yet, the cross-fertilization of course work, expanded our musical horizons.

The New York City High School of Performing Arts, my alma mater, offered a valuable/mandatory Sight-singing course that continued from 10th grade through senior year. It was enormously relevant as the movable DO (solfeggio) helped me navigate complex scores, and peel away voices.

Piano students who just stick to the music without being exposed to theory, ear-training and other mind-enriching escapades, are basically short-changed. They often view their pieces as finger challenges only–easily becoming Treble clef fixated, tacking on bass lines without a second thought. Naturally, their sight-reading suffers because they’re not internalizing interval movement in various voices, or sensing harmonic flow.

In an effort to stem the tide of such top layer, tracing paper learning, I’ve made a concerted effort to delegate at least 15 minutes of my students’ lesson time to ear training and transposing. (One of my source materials is Fundamentals of Piano Theory by Snell and Ashleigh) Snell and Ashleigh

As an example, I videotaped an adult student transposing snatches from the Preparatory Level workbook, page 45.

for transposition using solfege


I’ve tossed in a spot-practicing segment where the ADULT student is smoothing out a tricky set of measures in the RONDO: Allegretto, Mozart Sonata, K. 545. (Repertoire should be a springboard for sight-singing, ear-training and theory adventures since they’re interwoven)

(I often slip into solfeggio in parceling voices)


Solfeggio and Transposing

The Importance of Sight-singing, Ear-training and Theory in piano study

Using Piano Repertoire and as a springboard for a theory lesson

How to Improve Sight-Reading

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Advice for teaching piano students about dynamics and phrasing

This was the hallmark topic at a Linked-in piano forum board, with many piano teachers chiming in with great suggestions.

For me, singing beside a student or nudging him/her to join in is always helpful. I focus on shaping phrases in this way while also enlisting conducting motions. Finally, insights into how harmonic rhythm or the flow of harmonies influence a line are explored. (as well as matters of form and structure, such as an analysis of the motif, its elaboration, and where parts of a phrase returns, and might be extended–or pieced out–unexpected twists of a phrase, etc. or harmonic suprises) The student should have a sense of where a phrase is going or culminating.(Dynamics)

Dynamics and shaping phrases belong together along with an examination of articulation or note groupings.

Naturally the era of the composition and performance practice are important underpinnings of phrasing.

Finally, the physical expression of phrases translated into supple, relaxed efforts traveling down the arms into flexible wrists has to be a focal part of the creative process, and can’t be overlooked.

In this lesson-in-progress I flesh out the aforementioned approaches with an adult student who’s practicing the Mozart Rondo movement, K. 545 from Sonata no. 16 in C Major: