What and How I Teach

Below are the basic music subjects that I teach and a little bit about my teaching methods.

Styles:  Classical, Pop, Rock, Gospel, and anything you wish to learn to read.  I can also teach reading from a lead sheet (in fake books), and improvised Jazz.  

Sound Before Symbol:  The student always hears a piece of music, or hears a concept, before he has to figure out the symbols on the page.  After all, music is all about sound! 

Reading Rhythms:  For the first few years, the student learns to tap and count on every new piece, as the teacher plays it.  This helps her experience the rhythm, while she is seeing it and hearing it.  

Reading Notes:  The best students learn to read intervals, rather than reading notes.  Granted, learning names of notes and how to find them on a keyboard is necessary, and we definitely learn notes.  But, once he has that starting place in mind, it is easier to read by measuring one note's distance to the next note.  

Technique:  If you can read it, but you can't execute it, than technique is lacking.  The hand must be held in a position that makes playing easy!  If the shoulders are relaxed, the back is straight, the elbow at keyboard level, and feet are on a supported, flat surface, then the arms and hands can do their job well.  Keyboard skills include daily scales, chords, arpeggios, inversions, and applying the theory needed for improvisation.

Sight Reading:  I begin teaching a student to sight read within the first year of piano lessons.  This is a 3-step process, which, if carefully done, helps him study, prepare, and play each excerpt correctly on the first try.  My high school students sight read fluently.

Theory:  Music theory teaches how music works and increases recognition and skill abilities.  Theory practice is done weekly, and concepts are taught independently of the method theory book, both in the private lesson and at group lessons.

Ear Training:  Helping a student understand what he hears is a skill that is developed by early, regular ear training.  Ear training is done at home and in the studio, both away from and at the piano.  Eventually a student will learn to play what he hears and will be able to echo it at the piano with increasing accuracy.

Phrasing:  Music can be boring and dull without beautiful phrasing.  The rise and fall of dynamic levels within a musical line is what makes a piece so enjoyable to listen to.  This skill includes listening to the balance between hands, voicing the melody, and shaping the phrase.  

Performing:  Recital pieces are fine tuned, using all of the skills and techniques discussed above, thus showcasing each student's best work.  Students also participate in festivals, where they can earn a "gold cup," and evaluations where other teachers can give suggestions and praise work well done.  Click on "Recitals and Festivals" or "Royal Conservatory" to learn about these programs.

Harmonizing:  Learn to read from lead sheets and fake books.  This is where applying theory gets very fun!  Students learn how to improvise or "ad lib" to a melody, using chord symbols as a guide.  Various styles are taught starting from very basic chording.

Composing:  For my students who wish to compose, I give them "tools" one at a time, which help them create their own music!  Each tool is based in the theory study. . .so they can now apply that knowledge.

Ensemble Playing:  In about the 3rd year of piano study, each student is encouraged to participate in the UFMC Duet Festival.  Partners learn important ensemble skills, which include listening to and staying with the partner, balancing dynamics between partners, and communicating effectively together.  But, most of all, it is a lot of fun, because it is social!  Each participant can earn a "Gold Cup," with certain requirements.