Fluency can be a real speed bump for young piano students. Their brains are too busy trying to grasp note-reading, rhythm, fingering and dynamics to pay much attention to fluency.
And while I sympathize with my young students as they face a barrage of musical information, I do not let fluency go by the wayside.
The most obvious way to help your students develop fluency is to encourage them to practice regularly, ensuring the “nuts and bolts” of their pieces become easier and internalized. But even with lots of practice, many students have trouble achieving that true sense of fluency.
Today we’re sharing 5 “smooth” strategies for developing the speed, accuracy and expression that young piano students need to take their skills to the next level.
Developing Fluency in Young Piano Students
When a piano student is playing fluently, his tempo is even, his hands are working together effortlessly, phrases are grouped correctly, expression is present, and hesitations are non-existent.
Check out our 5 Tips for Teaching Fluency To Young Piano Students below:
1. See It, Hear It, Play It
For your piano student to understand what fluent playing sounds like, she needs to both see and hear it frequently. Make time to play for your student so that she can have a visual and aural memory of what her piece should (and will!) sound like. Before you play, discuss with your student the different elements of your performance that your student should watch and listen for (and be sure to use these tips for playing for your students).
2. Echo Playing
Using one measure at a time, play the treble or bass line for your student and then have her immediately play it back, being sure to match your tempo, expression, and phrasing. Repeat the same measure and echo several times in various octaves. Once a measure has become fluent, add a second one to create a two-measure echo. Repeat this process, working your way up to a four-measure echo.
3. Mirror, Mirror
Play the treble or bass clef line of a piano piece along with your student so that you are both playing the same line at the same time. Instruct your student to match your tempo, expression, and phrasing. Through mirroring with your student, you will become instantly aware of technical areas that need assistance… without putting her “on the spot”. We blogged in detail about the “mirroring technique” here.
4. Measure Swap
Instruct your student to sit at the piano and place her hands in the starting position of the selected piece. Next, sit beside your student and place your hands in the same position but an octave lower. Play the piece together, swapping measures as you go (ie. student plays measure one, teacher plays measure two etc.). Attempt to complete this task without any “break” between the teacher – student swap. While this will inevitably sound disjointed at the beginning, swapping measures quickly becomes a great way to reinforce playing with an even tempo
5. Speed it Up!
Choose one phrase in your student’s piece and have her play it at its normal tempo and then repeat the phrase over and over, gradually increasing the speed until she has reached what I call “Mach 4″… (4 repetitions, each being faster than the last). After reaching “Mach 4” she should continue to play, while gradually decreasing the tempo with each repetition… until she is back to the regular tempo.
These are my tricks… what are yours? We’d love to hear how YOU work on fluency with your piano students. Share in the comments below.
And Now Add Expression!
Taking the time to work on your piano students’ fluency is time well spent. Not only will they develop a more expressive and musical touch, but their enjoyment of the piano will increase. Even beginning piano pieces sound impressive and pleasing when they are played with a well-developed sense of fluency.
Apply that new-found fluency to pieces that your students can really connect with! With our comic-based series “The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo your young piano students will be encouraged to play with expression as they create the soundtrack to the thrilling comic adventure! Perfect for students working in a Level 2 method book. Find them on Amazon here.