Back on the bench again

My summer (July) teaching schedule is very light – a half-day a week. Two good piano students in the morning and two good theory students in the afternoon.

The summer goal for one of the piano students: to improve her reading ability so it aligns with her musical ability. She came to me as a transfer student last fall – grade 8/early advanced level. The technique, innate ability, ┬áhard work and desire to improve are there – the note-reading and comprehension of the construction of music are not.

Despite having done her 3 Theory Rudiments courses, she hasn’t made any connections between the theory and the music. Or rather, the connection hasn’t been made for her. She learns a new piece by painstakingly learning one hand at a time, memorizing the single line, then trying to put them together, hoping for the best. No sense of the vertical structure or the fact that most western music is chord-based.

The plan – besides a lot of the usual sight-reading activities* – to start her on some basic harmony exercises – starting with a triad chart in the key of the given piece (writing out the scale and building the triads above each scale note) – then rearranging the notes of each triad into different combinations – always having her play everything – then pointing out in a couple of pieces that everything is based on these notes.

The light bulb came on and it was glorious. It will be a mentally tough month for her as she works to incorporate a whole different way of thinking into her learning – but we’ve made a good start.


*See also: Awesome Sight-Reading; Reading Books, Reading Music.

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About LaDona's Music Studio

Musician, pianist, teacher, blogger.
This entry was posted in Piano pedagogy, Sight Reading and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Back on the bench again

  1. Erica says:

    Oh yay! I love lightbulb moments! And what a fantastic way to make that connection for her between theory and music. Thank you for the idea – I’m going to have to try it out too.


  2. Jenn says:

    I also just received a transfer student who can play late intermediate, but has no concept of the theory behind it all. Thanks for the idea on where to begin!

  3. Hope it works for you, Jenn. It seems to be working here – albeit slowly.

  4. Pingback: The big gun | LaDona's Music Studio

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