The First Lesson

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Take the time to get to know your student. Are they excitable or serious? Can they take instructions or will you need to make everything into a game? Are they independent learners or so independent that they try and dictate the lesson? Are they too shy to make any sounds on the piano or so excited that they come in fists a-blazing?! Do they already have some musical knowledge, conscious or unconscious, about pitch, beat, keyboard geography? Can they already play a fun rote song they have learnt elsewhere?

Every child is different and for every child I tailor the activities to suit them.

If they want to, I give them the space to explore the keyboard. How many keys are there? What story might go with the sounds you are making? Tempt them to the low notes if they are playing high. Move the bench away so they can run up and down the piano.

Some students might not want to touch the keys. I coax them in by modelling how they can play. I talk about my boys being babies and randomly flapping their hands over the keys. Or maybe a puppet can help. Give them permission to explore.

My Keyboard

The student discovers the pattern of black and white keys. Experiencing high and low sounds and associating them with different ends of the keyboard. I send them home to count their keys at home so I can discover what kind of instrument they are using.

Let’s Get Creative! – My Musical Pictures

We start by improvising based on different verbal stimuli like Scary Bear, Raindrops, Ballerina. Then I explain the game. They have to draw four pictures and practise improvising music to accompany each picture. Next week they have to secretly choose a picture, play the music and I have to guess which picture it is. We chat about how hard it will be for me if their pictures are Butterfly, Ballerina, Fairy and Stars. I need contrasting pictures with contrasting music: High and low sounds, loud and soft sounds, scary and happy sounds. The student chooses three pictures in the lesson and we write titles in the boxes and I always leave a box empty for them to surprise me.

The following week they are always excited to show me their pictures. Some children will have coloured them in in great detail. Some improvisations will be quite random with no musical sense and perhaps no end! Sometimes a student will have a more structured creation with musical elements such as a steady beat or a clear story.

It’s vital that the student is enthused about their instrument and their lessons. They have experienced every single key on the keyboard and are excited about the opportunities for exploration, storytelling and creativity.