About 5 years ago I decided that I wanted to learn to play the fiddle. I was sure I’d pick it up quickly and I’d be jamming away like a boss in no time. This was not the case. For my first few weeks of lessons, I screeched and scratched my way through some exercises, and then for the next few weeks I horribly butchered some “tunes”. To put it kindly… I was absolutely horrific. And as much as I believe in the value of stick-with-it-ness…for the sake of my family’s sanity my fiddle lessons lasted just 3 months.
Looking back on it now, I do wish I had stuck with it (surely I’d be better by now if I had?!) but my brief foray into the world of fiddling did give me some really great insights into how our beginning piano students feel, and the biggest take-away from my experience was…
Sounding “Good” = Motivation
If my fiddle had possessed some magical way of keeping me in tune… if the music I was playing actually sounded like music… then I most definitely would have pushed forward. And when you think of your beginning piano students, this is an important thing to keep in mind. Sounding “good” counts! No one is particularly inspired by a 2 line, 2-note piece that reinforces C and G. And while these early pieces are oh so necessary… they’re also as boring as a tennis match played by sloths.
So how can we help?
Adding some “oomph” to your piano kids’ early pieces will make all the difference as they work through the simple pieces in the beginning of their book, and it’s as simple as giving them a sidekick: you!
Sidekicks Spring Into Action!
Fill out those easy pieces with some sidekick fun… duets! Make use of those duets you find at the bottom of your piano kids’ method book pieces; not just sometimes… all of the time. And if there isn’t a duet for every piece in the book, create one! Here’s how:
1. Use a simple rhythmic pattern following the underlying chord progression in their piece. A line of I and V chords usually matches most beginning piano book pieces.
2. Add funny words and sing along
3. Mix up your octaves to change the mood and character of the piece as you play along with their part.
4. Add “call and response” moments to the piece.
5. Be an echo to your students’ line.
6. Bring out another instrument you happen to play (drums count!) and play along.
7. If your method book comes with a CD… use it!
These duets don’t have to be a masterpiece… but they do need to be inspiring and fun. Suddenly, those silly little pieces all beginners need to slog through will become inspiring, motivating and enjoyable. When we sound good we make all kinds of good associations with our instrument. When the sounds we make are not that great… well… my dusty fiddle can tell you all about that one.
Duets With Boys
If you’re a fan of our Fearless Fortissimo Series then you’ll definitely want to check out Episode 2. In the second book of the series we’ve included some really exciting duets that will help you easily connect with the piano boys in your studio and make their playing sound fab! You can check out Episode 2 in the Teach Piano Today store.