A few months ago, our local association hosted a workshop by the fantastic teacher/clinician Narciso Solero.  I gleaned a few wonderful things from this workshop that I’ve used with success in my studio — so I thought I would share a few points with you!

The talk was titled  “Bridging the Gap From Method Book to Major Repertoire

Of course, this is an exciting topic for any piano teacher, as we’re always looking for new ways to introduce the works of the masters (real music :-)) to our students. And, as a teacher, it is sometimes hard to know when a student is ready to take that step from the security of the method book, to the study of classical repertoire from different collections.   Mr. Solero brought out in his lecture the basic requirements a music student must have before he/she is ready to begin work on the pieces of major composers.

  1. Reading Requirements
  • the student should be comfortable with different meters, an abundance of notes, ledger lines, chords, hand position changes, accidentals, harmonic intervals, + before he/she will feel adequately prepared to ‘graduate’ from the method book.

To facilitate the quick learning of the above (since we all want to move on from method books as soon as possible, right? :-)), Mr.   Solero suggests the following 4-step System for Teaching Fluent Note Reading to Beginners:

  1. TAP and COUNT RHYTHM – 3 times
  2. PLAY and SAY NOTE NAMES – 3 times
  3. PLAY and COUNT OUT LOUD – 3 times
  4. PLAY and COUNT TO YOURSELF – 3 times

Now, I know what you’re thinking….”WHAT?! All of that 3 times a day for each and every piece??? My students would NEVER do it!”   How do I know that’s what you’re thinking? Because that’s exactly what I thought. 😉  But I figured I would stay tuned to Mr. Solero, because he’s a successful teacher and an intriguing speaker… and because I was so interested in the topic.

He went on to say that he really doesn’t expect students to do every single step for every single piece. Why? Because students almost never do exactly what their teachers ask them to… because, naturally, the teacher always will demand something ridiculous… so the students, if left to practice on their own, will maybe do, say, 3/4 of the given assignment… and then call it a day.  🙂  Isn’t that great?  Do you find this in your studio? I sure do in mine… and I can remember back when I was younger and doing the same thing with the assignments from MY piano teacher! What goes around….

Ok, so the point is, it’s OK to give your students more work than they will probably do. Better to ask them to do each step 3times and hope to get 2times out of them, than to ask them to do each step 1 time and hope they do it at all!

So, after this great workshop (and after all the gasps died down about his proposal) — I decided to make all of my young students guinea pigs for what I had just learned. A test, of sorts, to see if the above would ‘magically’ fix the reading/rhythm issues I was having with some of my younger students.   So I did it.   And guess what?  I’m still doing it.   And guess what else?  It’s working beautifully.  ALL of my younger students who are using the plan are reading better.  They are more familiar with notation and rhythm. They are even counting on their own without prompting!   It’s been a great semester in my studio.

So I guess it just goes to show that hard work (no matter if you’re doing some or all of it) really does pay off. Sure, some of the students still groan at the practice steps – but I can tell they’re doing them because it shows.   And I always try to listen to a step or two during lesson every week just so they know it’s coming. Like, I’m assigning them things that I will actually hear in the next lesson. Not just busy work.

Anyway, that’s all I’ll share for now. This was only half of the lecture.  Sometime I’ll post about the other half “Technical Requirements”  . But I will definitely keep teaching the “Reading Requirements” part… because I’ve used it… and it works.

What do you do in your studio to teach beginners how to quickly read music?  How long do you (or do you) use method books?