Piano Teaching Tips from Martha Mier

Martha MierI have always loved the cool sounds of jazz or blues music. My Jazz, Rags & Blues series has been very popular with today’s young piano students. Many piano teachers have told me that these books have prevented “drop-outs” in their studios. Their students would be losing interest, but when given a jazz book, their enthusiasm returned and they were once again happy piano students. Motivational music is the piano teacher’s “magic wand!”

Premier Piano Course, Jazz, Rags & Blues, book 1B

As part of Alfred’s Premier Piano Course, your students can now enjoy these styles of music with the supplementary series called Premier Jazz, Rags & Blues. Each book of the series correlates with the corresponding levels of the lesson books, giving students invaluable reinforcement of the concepts presented for a more positive learning experience.

Let’s take a look at two short pieces from the all new Premier Jazz, Rags & Blues supplementary books.

A Funky Song

The first piece is from Book 1A, a pre-reading piece on the three black keys. Beginning on the black keys allows students to focus on hand position, rhythm, and arm relaxation without having to read notes on the staff. Above each piece a keyboard is pictured to help the student find where to place the hands. In “A Funky Song,” several new concepts from the lesson book are used and reinforced:

  1. A new rhythm pattern (half-quarter-quarter)
  2. New dynamic signs (forte and piano)
  3. The repeat sign
A Funky Song

Click here to view the full score
with notes to “A Funky Song.”

Before beginning to play, be sure your student is sitting up straight and has relaxed shoulders. The hand position should be rounded, using curved fingers. Drop into the first key with arm weight and play with strong fingers. In measure 2, the importance of the rest on beat 4 should be emphasized; ask the student to raise the hand with a gentle lift of the wrist. The repeat sign at the end asks the student to play piano the 2nd time, reinforcing the difference between forte and piano.

Each piece in books 1A and 1B has a duet accompaniment that adds harmonic interest and rhythmic stability. The jazzy sounds are in the duet parts. In subsequent books, the duets will no longer be needed as new concepts are gradually introduced. The pieces will stand alone as jazz, rags, blues, or boogies.

The Thing-a-ma-jig

The Thing-a-ma-jig

Click to view the full score with
notes to “The Thing-a-ma-jig.”

From Book 1B, “The Thing-a-ma-jig” demonstrates more hand-together playing, and reinforces concepts of legato phrasing, staccato notes, and intervals of 2nds and 3rds.

In measure 1, play the staccato notes with a short, crisp, sound. Be sure to hold the left hand C in measure 2, beat 1, while the right hand plays the staccato notes on beat 2.

Measures 5, 6, and 7 are phrased, and should be played, with a smooth and flowing legato sound. The student should drop into the first note of each phrase, then transfer the arm weight to subsequent notes in the phrase.

Alfred's Premier Piano Course, Jazz, Rags & Blues, book 1BWe all know that students will practice diligently to learn a piece if they like the style of the music. Now your students can enjoy the sounds of Jazz, Rags & Blues in this new series which is carefully correlated with the lesson books of Alfred’s Premier Piano Course.

Martha Mier
Author, Arranger, Composer


One response to “Piano Teaching Tips from Martha Mier

  1. These two little pieces are an excellent resource for my little beginners. Thank you so much for showing them to us. This series will certainly be on my “TO BUY” list for my fall semester.

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