If you’re like me, you probably realized a long time ago that telling piano students how to play is far inferior to actually showing your students how to play.
Performing for your piano students can be an effective teaching strategy for modelling desired skills and techniques. It brings a verbal concept to life and provides a much clearer idea of expectations.
But effective modelling involves way more than a putting on a simple performance. Below I’ve outlined a five step process to get the most out of the times when you demonstrate for your students.
How To Effectively Demonstrate For Your Piano Students
Modelling piano playing is only effective when it is incorporated into a more encompassing strategy in which a skill is discussed, modelled, narrated, examined, and then practiced. Here’s a great way to make it work:
Begin by describing the skill that you will be modelling, talking about the different elements of your piano playing that you want your student to watch for.
“In your piece you can see that the right hand has both an outer and an inner voice. We want to phrase them in a way that makes the two voices distinct yet complimentary. Watch how I shift the balance in my hand to make the upper melody soar above.”
Model the concept for your student without narration, and then pause to discuss what your student observed.
“What did you hear and how did you see my hand contribute to what you heard?”
Perform for your student again. But this time narrate the points you want your student to pay attention to while you are actually playing.
“Look… the weight in my hand is on my 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers so that the upper melody is emphasized. My thumb and 2nd finger are playing more lightly to keep the inner voice quiet.”
Model the piano skill for a third time… performing correctly and then incorrectly. Following these two performances, discuss the differences between the correct and incorrect performances that your student observed.
Have your student perform the discussed skill or concept. As she plays, narrate your expectations, using the same verbal cues that were used when you narrated your own piano performance.
Like most teachers, I regularly modelled piano playing for my students in the past… but I did not always follow the above procedure. When I altered my approach, it really worked wonders for the students in my own studio. I hope it will do the same for your students!
Opportunities To Perform For Your Students
Piano students desperately need to be exposed to effective piano playing, so teachers should grasp any opportunity they can to play for their students and to engage both eyes and ears in the learning process. Modelling is one opportunity for students to watch a polished performer, but it is not the only opportunity. You may also want to let your students see and hear you play by…
- Including “just for fun” duets to play with your students at the end of each lesson
- Incorporating improv activities where you accompany your students’ creative experiments
- Performing teacher-student duets at a recital (or even a solo yourself) so your students can not only see a proper piano performance but a proper piano performance in a recital setting
- Including ear training in each and every lesson
Looking for great ear-training activities? Each month members of our PianoGameClub receive four awesome piano games and a we’re making sure a wonderfully quirky ear-training game always makes the cut! Learn more about PianoGameClub here.