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Irina Morozova’s inspiring words flow through a lesson with an adult student (Beethoven’s Fur Elise-in-progress) Video

“From watching great pianists it is obvious that they incorporate quite different movements to achieve the same goals, because people do not play piano with fingers but rather with the mind and the ear. Again, it is the clear image of what kind of sound one wants to achieve, combined with the knowledge of how to get it….”

To frame a lesson with these ideas, helps to infuse it with the spiritual, analytical, and nonverbal elements of exchange.

Within this paradigm, one of my adult students continued her study of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” (C section, treble chord voicing with bass tremolo)


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The Ideal Piano Lesson as the main course

If I could devise a recipe for an ideal piano lesson, it would contain the following ingredients:

A 15-minute warm-up including a scale (one or two plus octaves in parallel and contrary motion) played legato and staccato–adding 3rds, 10ths, and 6ths depending on student level, with an additional assortment of arpeggios.

For a Beginner, practicing five-finger positions would be the routine: exploring Major and parallel minor keys with fingers moving in the same and opposite directions in Legato to staccato, Forte/piano. Such warm-up appetizers, nicely paced, would lead to the main course:

Repertoire learned in layers with separate hands, would keep a well-studied composition percolating. A student who’d thought he had thoroughly ingested a composition after weeks and months of study, might find it slipping away or going stale. Taking it apart as often as needed would restore its freshness.

Compositions of contrasting style periods, or pieces of diverse character, one lively and the other, somber, would tweak the ear buds. A memorized piece placed beside a newly learned one–and a composition on the back burner requiring more than a spot check would fill out a generous musical serving.

Sight-reading would be next on the menu–Choosing one or two short compositions from the current level, and another, a notch above would stimulate musical taste buds. (Include sight-singing as a sight-reading helper, with Solfeggio as the central ingredient: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do.)

For the finale, the Theory portion of the lesson, (usually the tiniest serving) should not be a menu add-on. Instead, on a perfect lesson tray, the student should have composed a short melody that fulfilled the prior week’s assignment. Integrated into composing would be Ear Training experiences such as identifying skips and steps, major and minor progressions: listening for the outline of intervals in the melody that suggest a bass line and adding major/minor duality into the mix to widen a student’s aural palette. Theory indirectly spoon fed in this way would eliminate groans and grunts because feasting on creative activity would be a boon to learning.

In a perfect world, the ideal lesson would play out in this way but barely in the space of 45 minutes to an hour. Still, a teacher should plan on a sit-down for two including some of these menu items. It would go a long way to sustain a piano student’s learning appetite over months and years.