Could Your Student Do This? ‘On The Spot’ Pieces and Why You Need Them

My piano lesson experiences as a young child consisted mostly of prepping for exams.  I’d spend about 6 months learning 4 pieces… I’d take the exam… and then 2 months later I’d have completely forgotten how to play those 4 pieces.  I spent a good 10 years of my life “progressing” in this manner; I should have had an impressive repertoire list at my finger tips, but in reality, when someone asked me to “show them my stuff” I could crank out my latest Sonatina… but that was really it. 

It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized just how silly this was.  It was like being a baseball player who could only catch a ball at noon on a Sunday in July.  I wasn’t gaining an applicable skill.

Play From the Heart Without Missing a Beat

As a piano teacher one of my main goals for my students is for them to be able to put what they’ve learned in their lessons to use in “real world” situations.  Can they accompany a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” or “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow?”  Can they impress with a showstopper of a party piece?  Can they play the National Anthem?  Can they hear a popular song on the radio and plop down on the bench to figure out the chording?  These are all real-world situations where our piano students are “put on the spot”…. how would your students fare in these situations?

I found the ultimate example of this on Twitter the other day and I absolutely loved this video.  Whether it was a set-up or not, you’ve just got to love how it all “played out”.  Check it out below – it’s worth watching.

As cute as this video was (and as likely as it was a set-up) it really solidified these goals I have for my students; could MY piano student be called up on the Tonight Show and actually have something decent prepared at the drop of a hat?  If not, why not? 

It’s my personal mission to make each and every one of my piano students “on the spot” ready… so bring it on Jay, Jimmy, and Conan!  

15 Responses to Could Your Student Do This? ‘On The Spot’ Pieces and Why You Need Them

  1. says

    Many thanks for leading me to this Andrea – I quite agree that we should all be able to do this as should our pupils!

    Over here in the UK I am one of the tutors on the Piano Teacher’s Course and one of our main aims is that everyone who comes on the course should be able to improvise and play by ear.

    I shall re-post it on our facebook page and see if we can get some more people inspired!


  2. says

    Loved this clip! “David” was a real showman; especially liked that he moved his “tuxedo tails” out of the way when he sat down:) Sometime ago I started making sure all of my students learned how to “pick out” Happy Birthday and decide what chords to put with it. Why? Because I myself was embarrassed many times when asked at a party to play Happy Birthday and couldn’t. If students have been playing for several years I even have them transpose to different keys. I’ve also made a “Music by Memory” sheet for my students’ notebooks. They list the songs they’ve memorized and know that at anytime I can ask them to play something from that list. If they don’t remember the chosen piece, we go back and review it. I’m sure one day they will be glad we did this!

  3. says

    What a joy to watch this morning! That was great and just solidifies the need to have a several piece on hand from memory at all times! (especially Happy Birthday!!)

  4. Linda says

    Here’s a guy who’s real sure of himself. What wonderful stage presence! He didn’t have time to get nervous!!
    I’m sure his piano teacher was very proud of him.

  5. Donna says

    When I was a teenager, “The Entertainer” was the only piece I could play any time any place but I impressed people with that one song and was repeatedly asked for it. Time to get a new one under my belt!

    • says

      Hi Donna – me too! The Entertainer and the theme song from the show Cheers. They were the only two “popular” pieces my piano teacher gave to me and I played them to death. My poor parents…

  6. Holly Valencia says

    THat was a great clip! Love when they got a shot of his flip flops! LOL I think I will show this to some of my students. :)

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