In 3 hours students arrive. The first 2 are brand new beginners. That first lesson is so important. I’ll never forget Dennis Alexander relating the story of his very first lesson. His teacher told him to come on in, for they were going to have so much FUN. It led to a very successful career as performer, composer, teacher and clinician.
The options for teaching brand new beginners are overwhelming. Every year I do things differently. Two years ago I tried a number of different methods – this year I’m pretty much sticking with the tried and true Piano Adventures and Alfred Premiere Piano Course, throwing in a good measure of pedagogical principles from Artistry at the Piano. I’m sticking to my belief that it’s not the Method, but the teacher/student/parent triad that determines success. I know the strengths and weaknesses of my chosen Method books, and I work from there, depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the student.
Today’s beginners (a 7-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl; these are separate private lessons) are each coming for only 30-minute lessons. So what to do at the first lesson?
*Establish a good rapport.
*Show how the piano works (boys especially love this).
*Posture at the piano.
*Explanation of white keys – have the students go up the entire keyboard naming every note. Give Alphabet Drill (in Printables).
*Five-finger position – play each finger 3 times – focus on technique without calling it that.
*Basic ear training – highs and lows – simple, simple playbacks (3 consecutive notes up or down)
*Work with the beginning of the method book for reading.
*Give The Binder – personalized cover page this year (upcoming post – stay tuned). Section for assignments, which are typed up on blank Word docs, so no set assignment sheet anymore. Section for Fun Stuff – which includes a page where we trace the hand now, and then again next June. This is where my panic now sets in – I feel woefully unprepared. Previous years I had everyone SO ready – in fact, I had put a lot of stuff in the binders that I didn’t even use. Rationalization for my unpreparedness: I’ll put stuff like Rhythm Drills, the Incentive Program with all its goals, Technique materials, etc. in as we go.
If you and your beginner student are extremely ambitious, you could follow Isabelle Byman’s plan for the first 15 lessons – which would take you to Christmas. While I mostly laugh when I read this, it does bring to mind the thought that many students can do a lot more than we give them credit for.