Monthly Archives: May 2016

Professional Piano Teaching: Useful Guides for New and Experienced Teachers

By Jeanine M. Jacobson
Jeanine M. Jacobson
I truly believe that piano teaching is a profession. Consequently, I was motivated to spend the last twenty years of my life writing, editing, and refining the two volumes of Professional Piano Teaching to aid both students and teachers in their teaching endeavors. The books are designed for both university piano pedagogy students and for independent piano teachers. In an easy-to-read style and format they provide both the experienced and new teacher with step-by-step procedures for HOW to teach piano students, leading both the teacher and student toward successful learning at the keyboard. An abundance of musical examples are included to illustrate the topics discussed. Pedagogy instructors at universities will find these books save them time. Pedagogy students can easily read at least one chapter each week and complete the projects provided at the end of each chapter. Experienced teachers will find useful information and teaching strategies.

Volume 1: In the first volume, strong pedagogical principles are applied to beginning and elementary teaching. Teachers will learn about what it means to be a professional piano teacher and how to develop a personal teaching philosophy.  They will become acquainted with the principles of learning and how to teach by helping students discover information as well as learn by rote. Teachers will explore how to prevent errors, present concepts and skills in a systematic way and teach to individual learning styles.

Readers will become aware of the various types of beginning methods and learn to evaluate methods by applying a wide range of criteria. They will also learn how to determine the difficulty of pieces, organize pieces in the proper teaching order and craft piece summaries, effective lessons plans, and assignments. Step-by-step approaches are provided for teaching both rhythm and pitch reading. Technique is taught from the natural way to play and the use of the entire arm to assist the hand and fingers, emphasizing that the sound will be beautiful when the use of the body is effortless.

Teachers will become familiar with the role of aural development, music literacy and creative activities in the development of musicality. They will learn to use these tools to lead students to hear and understand the character of pieces and how they can make pieces come alive by applying dynamics, articulation and phrasing.

Unique strategies for group teaching, teaching pre-schoolers, and teaching adults are thoroughly discussed in separate chapters. Teaching strategies for both standard elementary repertoire and familiar styles of music are provided.

Part of professional piano teaching includes running a piano studio in a businesslike and professional manner. This first volume provides guidelines for teaching in a home studio, in students’ homes, in an established program, or in a rented space. It provides advice for acquiring students, marketing, establishing tuition, scheduling lessons, and communicating with parents. This chapter helps one learn how to use one’s personal teaching philosophy to develop a studio policy that includes tuition payment policies, lesson attendance, practice requirements, and performance participation. This chapter includes numerous sample forms for all aspects of running a piano studio.

The first volume concludes with a chapter to help teachers evaluate their own teaching. Effective and ineffective teaching strategies are listed and criteria and evaluation formats are provided for a variety of ways to critique one’s own teaching.

Volume 2: This volume offers insight into the teaching of intermediate and early- advance-level students.  Like the first volume, the same strong pedagogical principles are now applied to the teaching of students at these levels. What defines intermediate levels and the early advanced levels is clearly articulated.  Helpful teaching strategies are provided to assist students in progressing from the elementary levels into the intermediate level and from the intermediate level into the early-advanced level. Topics include how to understand and teach teenagers, how to help transition a transfer student into one’s studio and how to prepare a student for a college audition.

Rhythm, reading and technique are approached using the same strong pedagogical principles as in volume one and applied to the higher levels of piano learning. The technique chapter helps teachers learn how to recognize and alleviate excess tension in their students’ playing by understanding the principles of movement as it applies to piano playing. It also explores the role and use of the fingers, hand, wrists, and arms at the keyboard.

Teachers are guided to observe the elements of rhythm, pitch, and sound and how these observations coupled with strong aural skills lead students to artistic interpretation. Criteria for determining the style of pieces is provided and teachers are given a template for both internal and external evidence within pieces that will ultimately lead to appropriate stylistic interpretation.

The role of intrinsic motivation in successful teaching and learning of piano music focuses on how to teach in ways that will assure student motivation and lead toward effective and efficient practice. A multitude of practice strategies are described in detail and applied to sections of student repertoire.

A thorough discussion of the role of memory in piano performance provides teachers with a detailed analysis of the three phases of memory, the factors that influence the memory process, and the various types of memory—kinesthetic, tactile, pitch, rhythm, aural, visual, and intellectual. A step-by-step process for developing intellectual memory is applied to a section of a piece. Practice routines for developing continuity in performance are also included as are strategies for controlling performance anxiety.

Summaries and Projects: Both books have summaries and projects at the end of each chapter (See the attached examples from Chapter 1 of Volume 2). Unique projects are provided for both new teachers and for experienced teachers. Teachers are encouraged to apply what they have learned in each chapter to teaching before going to another chapter.

Summaries & Projects

The quest for improvement of piano teaching skills never ends. Whether you are a new teacher or an experienced teacher refining your skills, I hope that Professional Piano Teaching will aid you in your journey. I wish you continued success as you pursue your career in professional piano teaching.