As your Piano Insider of the Grosse Pointe Music Academy, it’s important to me that I share with you my inside information on making piano lessons work for you or for your child. These are lessons I’ve learned after succeeding in teaching lessons and learning from my mistakes as a piano teacher in the Detroit area for the last decade.
Most students can learn to “decode” piano music – that is name the notes and count aloud the rhythms – but for most the printed music page has little musical meaning. They can chant it or name it but cannot “hear” the page before playing it on the piano. It is so common to find a piano student with years of experience who is unable to play “Happy Birthday” without sheet music. This is because they do not have a music vocabulary. Music is learned like a language – which means anyone taking music lessons needs to have a vocabulary to “speak” the language.
Think of how babies learn to speak by first listening, then babbling, then eventually speaking and years later reading and writing. Music students need to learn to “speak music” through learning rhythm and tonal patterns and using these patterns to eventually read and write music. Someone who has a pattern vocabulary can truly understand music because they have the ability to anticipate, predict and remember what happens in the music they study.
Learning rhythm and tonal patterns also jump-starts students on improvising and composing. Just like we improvise in our native language (think of your everyday conversation); a student learning patterns can take one or two patterns and play it in different ways on the piano – a very fun and simple step in creativity!
The piano is a fantastic accessible instrument for improvising and composing with your new-found pattern vocabulary – you have an orchestra at your fingertips! Once you realize your piano pieces are comprised of many recognizable rhythm and tonal patterns, you’ll more quickly memorize your music and you may start to “hear the page” before playing it first.
This is a deep topic with which we would love to continue talking about with you at the Grosse Pointe Music Academy. Our Canton and Grosse Pointe locations are currently accepting new students ready to build their music vocabulary! Don’t wait to call – spaces are filling quickly and music classes begin September 6th.
Creating with 88,
The Piano Insider