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What Do You Teach On A First Piano Lesson?


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#1 hammer action

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 13:45

Say for example, you have an adult total beginner who has come to you for lessons. What do you teach on the very first lesson (lasting 30 mins?) I ask out of curiosity and to see if what i'm doing is normal! I'm sometimes concerned incase i'm telling a new beginner too much on their first lesson - last thing i want to do is "scare" someone into never coming back!! What book do you find best for an adult beginner. I usually use the Comple Piano Player, but can't help feeling that it's a wee bit old fashioned! Thanks smile.gif
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#2 Digby

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 15:02

I use Carol Barratt classic piano course, but as has been mentioned before it does jump quite quickly.

I know what you mean, the first lesson can be very 'wordy' with me talking more than I would normally, but as to how much to cover it's very much a case of judging each individual. I do try to get them playing the piano as much as possible, but it is harder with adults as kids are quite happy to bang the top notes, bottom notes, play quietly and loudly, whereas adults are alot more reserved.


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#3 Hedgehog

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 15:18

Depends on what the adults have done before. I have used the Michael Aaron adult course, and the grade 1 (I think it's called) book.

Atm I have a fairly new adult who maintains that she's forgotten everything she knew when she was learning clarinet, and who has brought along her daughter's first books, so we're using them. But I find that I jump about a bit more and kind of make the lessons hang together by choosing pieces from different books, so for example if we've just covered F#, I'll pick out several short pieces from different places in G major.

I find that adults need to focus more on flexibility and coordination than children or teenagers, so I apologise first, and then produce a dozen a day, probably starting on the second book (green cover) which gets them reading more new work each week, as well as working on coordination.

Adults are sometimes more of a challenge until you get them "up and running".
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#4 Catey

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 15:50

I also use the Carol Barratt Classic Piano Course book and like the idea of using Dozen a Day as well... I've got 3 adult beginners at the moment and was wondering what to supplement with!

In terms of first lesson I do find that I'm talking a lot but do get them to play. I show them how to identify middle C and then see if they can find some more. I talk about musical alphabet and white notes / black notes.

It does tend to depend on how much of a beginner they are. I have one who's claiming to be a complete beginner but has done some work on the sax before, so it's all a matter of getting them to talk a bit. I think adults prefer to be classed as complete beginners so that when you tell them how fast they're progressing they feel pleased with themselves!
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#5 Jane S

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 16:39

The Classic Piano Book by C Barratt, an exercise book, most probably scales based, (will go and look up the one I like). Now for supplementary material, go to musicscores on the internet, they have lots of really good stuff from beginners to concert level. You can browse and listen if the material is unfamiliar. A lot of the material you have to become a member to print. The annual subscription is very reasonable.

Always always reassure your adult (and child) beginners that you will be patient and expect to reinforce everything you teach several times over. It is normal to feel a little overwhelmed with all the information necessary to start playing if this is the first shot at an instrument.

Encourage mind mapping on their part for revision, and if possible they could try to 'teach' a willing guinea pig in their family in order to reinforce what they know themselves.

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#6 hammer action

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 20:01

Thanks to all who have answered so far - some really interesting replies. I've been doing more or less what's been suggested so my mind has been put at rest! Usually in the first lesson i'll cover the RH notes of C,D,E,F & G and not mention note values, but perhaps as an experiment on my next adult beginner, i'll cut down the notes on the first lesson and concentrate more on note values instead. morningcoffee.gif

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#7 piano*singing*lover

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 21:41

Can I add to this post and ask, what do you teach (piano) on the first lesson for complete beginner children, and also for my first time teaching too.
My mums friend has been asking me for a while to teach their daughters, and my neighbour also for her little girl., but i've put it off because I'm not exactly sure how to go about the first lesson, and how to start teaching them how to read music and rhythms, what books to use, what to do on the piano first eg, where is middle c etcc.....
Can anyone offer me advice or examples of what you would do on the first lesson?
Was anybody here nervous the first time they ever taught?
PSL=P
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#8 Hedgehog

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 22:02

It depends on the age of the child. My first lessons for children aged 8 and under are usually 20 minutes because you can get a lot into 20 minutes, and it's all new so it can be quite overwhelming.

We discuss the pattern of black and white keys, how useful that is, high and low notes, find middle C, and other notes if everything is going well. Also I'm quite nosy and find out if they have a piano, or keyboard, and piano stool. We talk about hand shape, and then learn a little tune. I make sure they're absolutely clear about what to do, and write it down in letters on a sheet of paper. Sometimes we even have time to talk about numbers of the fingers.
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#9 pianophrase

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 23:38

Well after delivering children to and from piano lessons for a few years, I decided to dive in and learn the piano myself. I found a local teacher and nervously went along for my first 30min lesson. Apart from the recorder in class at primary school, many, many years ago I had never had a solo music lesson.

I have looked up the notes made from that first lesson -

'Play all the notes starting from your lowest A, saying A B C D E F G and so on

Use finger 3 (little diagram drawn showing 'A')


5 finger exercise starting on middle C - Right Hand first play it on all the C's going up, then Left Hand start on middle C going down.

Revise book to Page 6.

The book was Alfred's Adult All-in-One Course Level 1

Looking back at this book up to page 6, only contains preliminary exercises including hand exercises; deep breathing! and how to sit at the piano.

The second lesson a week later included a five finger stretch and squeeze exercise, playing Ode to Joy (right hand only) and Aura Lee (left hand only) from the Alfred book. I remember scales being introduced quite early and some basic theory.

My first teacher (who retired after about a year) was lovely and I really enjoyed lessons, I remember also using A dozen a Day books.


I have also used Pam Wedgwood's It's Never too late... to play the piano beginner book.

smile.gif










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#10 Jane S

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 10:30

I find the above posts really interesting! From the very first lessons I taught, more that 30 years ago now, I always started from the lowest pitched A, naming every note sequentially and alphabetically, avoiding the black notes. After 3 octaves the pupil catches on, plays each note in turn and names them. The alphabet is kept in order. The black notes are used as navigational aides, groups of 2 and 3, unless specifically asked, they are not taught as notes until semitones come in, as it were.

If teaching on an acousitc piano, take of the lid and the front section if possible exposing the strings and dampers, demonstrate how the pedals work, and usually people are fascinated.

If you teach notes out of their alphabetical order, that easily confuses pupils, even those who have a strong grasp of their alphabet.

Rhythm and pitch, and basic notation are also important, but always always always state at the first and last of each lesson, now do you need me to repeat anything or rephrase it? And do so, with patience. Not everyone naturally picks things up, in fact over time struggling to understand can be in severe cases a sign of an educational difficulty which might need to be explored tactfully with the pupil and parents.
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#11 maggiemay

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 11:27

I could write a book ! (but will try not to).

The first lesson varies enormously, depending on the age and apparent aptitude of the student.

However I teach very differently now from how I might have done when I started out.

We do usually start on the black keys. I ask the pupil (P) to spot the pattern, we pick out all the 2s, all the 3s. I might ask P to copycat - ie pick out the same note in the pattern, so eg lower of 2, middle of 3 etc. No names of course, just pattern recognition. We reverse the game and P picks a note, then checks if I can 'match' it (in another octave of course, but we don't use these terms - it's just visual recognition).

If this is a young child we will learn a simple tune on the black keys, probably using fingers 2 and 3. We discover that our fingers are all different lengths, but round your hand and they become much more similar. "Bent knees like riding a bike" sometimes helps but I try to avoid too much fuss about this. Where they are really weak, the 'pecking rooster' exercise from Piano Adventures (you can find it online) is helpful.

We will also do rhythm copying (clapping) and explore idea of high and low pitch (often these days need to dissociate this from high and low volume). With a 5 or 6 year old this might be all we will do in the first lesson (usually 20 minutes). P will have a simple work-sheet with the words of the song we played and a mini-keyboard-picture with a few simple questions to complete for next time.

With an older child or adult I schedule 30 minutes, and we will move on from the pattern of the black keys to learn the names of the white notes, and the fact that D always comes in an easy-to-spot place. I regard this as quite important, as many keyboards don't start with A at the left-hand end, and a beginner may have a keyboard as a temporary arrangement.

This is all assuming a beginner of course. With a bright older child or adult we may do a little simple music reading at the first lesson, but I quite often leave it until the second. If P is quite handy with using all five fingers of one hand I will give a tune to learn based on finger-numbers (no notation), which gives a sense of achievement and sends them home with something to play. With an older non-beginner we will explore the starts of several books and start to get a feel for what kind of approach will work.

It's impossible in a short-ish reply to cover every eventuality - hope this in some small way helpful.
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#12 Jane S

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 12:43

Yep well thought through Maggiemay, but no surprise there you always seem to do so!

I suppose everyone has a favourite method, must put mine into print one of these days! Like the idea of the black notes only first, which has to be a really good method for tinies, and nervous adults too, and yes and all the ones inbetween as well. laugh.gif
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#13 Prins

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 13:23

I am reasonably new to teaching, but recently I started a few children between ages 11-14.
I use Piano Adventures accelerated for the older beginner for them, for younger children Hal Leonard book 1.
If I would get an adult student I would also use Accelerated Piano Adventures, I just love using this book.

First thing is how to sit, distance from the piano, how to hold their hands etc.

Then I usually ask them to copy a simple 5 finger pattern (CDEFG or ABCDE) with RH and LH. I can see if they are comfortable using 5 fingers in a row, if they are, I play an accompaniment on broken chords: C major, A minor, F major, G major and starting over again, in a loop, for one or more minutes. They are asked to improvise, first time with their hand in the 5 finger position just learned, second time, playing freely on white keys.
So far every pupil thinks : Wow! that sounds like real music. One time a mother who attended the first lesson was moved to tears to hear her daugher play like that after 5 minutes.

From observing their playing you can learn a lot about them, if they can keep a steady pulse, if they are introverted and reserved or not, if they keep their body relaxed/tense etc.

If they love the improvising I add an improvisation on black keys, where I play an accompiment found in Hal Leonard level 1. If they don't I move on.

Then I proceed with the lesson book, learning names of the white keys, concentrating most on C and F in relation to the black key groups.

Then I do the activity in the book called the Rhythm Flag, which is counting note values, whole, half and quarter.
The book says to clap them, but I usually play it with them on one note, e.g. on C, or if they can on a fifth like C+G, and we both count out loud. Like : 1-2-3-4; 1-2, 1-2, 1-1-1-1.

After that there is a little piece in the book callled Rhythm and Blues, which sounds big for a first piece.
It uses thirds with RH fingers 1 and 3 on C+E and F+A, with an Blues-like teacher accompaniment.

Their homework then is to practice this Rhythm and Blues piece, to review the note values and to learn the names of the white keys.

Every new student so far left really enthousiastic and wanting more.

For small children I do some of the above depending on the child, but I use Hal Leonard books (and in one case Alfred Prep Course), I copy their hands on a sheet of paper (drawing around their fingers), let them write the numbers inside the fingers, let them fill out a worksheet I prepared with pictures of a roaring lion, a bird, etc. asking if these are high or low sounds, and imitating them on the piano. and also improvising on white and black keys.
They usually do not learn all the note values in the first lesson but only quarter note and quarter rest, so they can play the first piece in the book.
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#14 Jane S

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 16:07

Hi Prins, you've clearly got a clear and consistent approach, which is inspiring your pupils and motivating you as well (by their response)!

It is always interesting to hear how teachers respond to new pupils.
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#15 piano*singing*lover

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 22:09

Thank you guys for all the replies!
I'm desperate to teach but just lack confidence but I think once the first lesson is over it will be a lot easier.
Did people here get nervous the first time they ever taught?
Everyone here has such amazing and different approaches to music and I think it's fantastic to have a variety like that, so thank you everyone for sharing!
The girls ages are 9, 11 and another 9 year old, all very intellegent girls. They all attend NYCOS, and 2 of the youngest have just started playing brass instruments.
Do you think 19 is too young to teach?
My tutors are desperate for me to do it for the experience and I would love to pass on my enthusiasm, and the girls are desperate to learn.
Thank you very much ! PSL tongue.gif
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