Piano Notes

A couple of interesting observations from just a few days’ worth of #1’s piano practice. First off, I like this teacher, and her philosophy of music instruction. She incorporates not only piano playing, but also theory, ear training, sight reading, performance, and composition, all at age-appropriate levels. For his first practicing assignment, #1 is supposed to practice four little ditties from his lesson book, exercising all of the 2- and 3-black-key groups, going up or down. Each ditty spans the whole keyboard, and uses both hands. Each ditty he has to practice playing, playing along with the finger numbers, and playing along with lyrics.

It’s interesting to hear how, the more he practices these things, the more his voice conforms to the proper intonation of the notes he’s playing. That’s ear training, and I really doubt he has any clue that it’s happening. With any luck, the same thing will happen with rhythm — currently he doesn’t seem to be phased by playing in a tempo completely unrelated to the ticking metronome.

What’s even more interesting is how his singing indicates a grasp of harmonic theory that must be either innate, or already absorbed from ambient music by this age. With “Three Little Kittens”, for instance, he has to travel up the keyboard on all the three-black-key groups. The finger-number lyrics are “two, three, four, together; two, three, four, together…”. The funny thing is, his ever-more accurate pitch matches the tune of the “two, three, four” (F#, G#, A#), but when he plays those three notes together, his vocal pitch is a C#, which is a note never played by his fingers. It is an extremely logical note, however, according to the music theory of what could melodically follow those three individual notes, as well as what fits harmonically with the three played together, since the C# is the fifth that joins the F# and A# to form a complete major triad.

Same but but different story with the two-groups (C#, D#), but he concludes with the fourth (F#), which makes melodic and harmonic sense in that context. And I’ll have to check again, but with the downward-moving exercises, I think he behaves differently (but still logically), each time simply reiterating the tonic when the notes are played together (sing A#, G#, F#, F#, or D#, C#, C#). Another way to explain this impressive behavior is that he simply learned to sing along to the notes the way his teacher sang. I’ll have to check. But I don’t think she covered all four songs with him in the lesson, but just told him to do the last two the same way as the first two.

All this in the first week, as well as an assignment to “compose a song using any combination of black keys”, and loan of a musical history book about Bach — Cage, with a CD of solo piano examples to listen to. And she has all her students participate in recitals early and often, so heads up, locals — #1’s solo piano debut will be in October!

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5 Responses

  1. All this will intrigue him as a budding scientist, or a person curious about life (according to Nafisi, curiosity is the ultimate insubordination/rebellion!!!)as well as musician. How super is that!

  2. With my new digital recording device, I’ll be able to put his recital on the web for non-locals to hear.

  3. I may never have told you this, but I was taking piano lessons when I was 25. For real. From a friend and fellow teacher — I was hoping to learn to play well enough that I could bust out a song at my up-and-coming wedding.

    As much as I appreciated my friend, however, I grew quickly disheartened at her teaching style. She was a scalemonger through and through — had me do little besides scales. Any time she did have me work on a piece of music, I had to work on sightreading at the same time. Too many variables to learn all at once, especially for an old-dog mind like mine. I didn’t realize all that at the time — I just grew discouraged, thinking that music was all work and no fun, that the initial learning curve was next to insurmountable. In retrospect that seems entirely wrong. I wish I’d had a teacher who allowed me to memorize pieces and then play them, who allowed me to enjoy music and then work on refining my skills. Perhaps that’s anathema to serious musicians, but I wasn’t out to become a serious musician — I just wanted to belt out one heartfelt song at a wedding. Oh well. It sounds like #1’s teacher is doing a great job of mixing things up — asking him to compose a song, for example. I would have appreciated an approach like that.

  4. Yay for #1’s piano teacher! That sounds just great!!!

  5. Great to hear about L’s piano training. Does indeed sound like an excellent teacher. Well done on finding her. I hope L keeps enjoying it. Music enhances his experiance of other subjects. Later. n

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