Wow… we piano teachers have a lot on our plate. We teach hand position, correct fingering, note reading, rhythmic accuracy, correct posture, phrasing, articulation… I could go on and on and on. But even when all of the mechanics of being able to play the piano are finally in place, there is sometimes just a little something lacking.
Teaching Beautiful Tone To Piano Students
But this “little something” is actually a BIG something; without attention to tone your students may play well… but they won’t play beautifully.
Check out our 5 tips below for working on touch, tone, and how to ad that spark of beauty to your piano students’ playing.
1. Check the home instrument – I’m a big proponent of “piano for everyone” but I am also the first to suggest an upgrade in a home instrument as soon as a student shows definite interest in lessons. Your student spends 167.5 hours away from your studio piano each week and it is next to impossible to develop beautiful and expressive playing in just 30 minutes a week. Your students need a piano at home that responds to nuance, and they need the consistency of a good piano under their fingertips.
2. Listen, listen, listen – Teaching young piano students to play beautifully when they haven’t really ever heard beautiful piano playing is like teaching someone to cook who has never tasted good food. It’s so important for your piano students to be listening to great pianists in an active and guided way (“What did you just hear?”, “How do you think he is achieving that sound?”, “What did you like about that last bit?”)
3. Teach Tone With Technique – When you are going through technical work with your students, avoid simply focusing on notes and rhythm; every time your students play it should be with an awareness of the sound they are producing. It is therefore helpful to use some warm-ups and technical exercises that are memorized or taught by rote. This way your students’ ears can be actively engaged rather than their eyes.
4. Correct Hand Position – Encourage and teach correct hand position (see our post here) and work to build strong first finger joints which will lead to the ability to add arm weight. Short and easy technical exercises will help to develop both your students’ finger muscles and their sense of legato. Think two-note slurs to start rather than multi-measure exercises.
5. Hand Balance – I’m sure you’ve heard of “ghosting” before (playing on the keys without actually depressing them). This is a wonderful technique for teaching your students how to keep one hand quieter than the other (one hand plays the melody line and the other “ghosts”).
Attempting this with complex repertoire makes this process a bit too difficult to fully comprehend the end goal, so start simply (even just with pentascales) and focus on the ability to phrase one hand while the other plays silently. As your students’ awareness of balance is developed, seek out simple repertoire that will allow your students to focus on the sound without worrying about notes, rhythms etc.
Everyone Has Their Own Tips and Tricks!
These 5 tips will get you started on developing beautiful tone in your piano students’ playing… but we know that everyone has their own wonderful tips and tricks on this subject! We’d love to hear from you… share your strategies for how you teach the concept of beautiful tone in the comments below.