Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 39

and identifying the difference, playing both types of sounds. With this kind of experience in place, the student is then presented with the f and p symbols. But there is a more basic concept at work here, and no greater one can be learned at this point. This is the concept of notation representing sound quality. Truly, this is the beginning of understanding concepts of musical artistry. Another example of an early level concept is that of the interval. Most books will present one interval at a time beginning with the interval of a 2nd. If one simply follows the method series, preparing then presenting this interval and then preparing and presenting the next interval, there is a more basic concept being missed. This is the concept of interval itself; the idea of distance and relationship on the keyboard and its representation on lines and spaces with the corresponding sounds. Before the first mention of interval occurs in a publication, my students have explored 2nds and 3rds and have seen how they can be represented on the staff. This quickly and easily opens the door for exploration of 4ths and 5ths well before they encounter them in repertoire. When considering rhythm, we need to avoid simply teaching note values. We need to boil it down to the basic concept of pulse. All rhythms are either additions or subdivisions of this basic concept. Whether experienced through marching, swinging arms, or swaying, students must first understand the concept of pulse in order for all other rhythmic discoveries to make sense. (For more on the teaching of rhythmic pulse see the Rhythm Department in the Spring 2008 issue of Keyboard Companion, found under “past website issues” at claviercompanion.com.) Rhythm is the area of musicianship in which a student is most likely to “know” something intellectually, but not be able to demonstrate it in their playing. It is very easy to teach the mathematical side of rhythmic values. It takes a wise and persistent teacher to ensure that the student feels rhythm.

Scale fingering concepts
The classic pattern used in teaching technique is the scale. Having already stated that the scale pattern is not a technical concept, I do find that there is a fingering concept used in scale playing which is often overlooked. When you boil it down, scale fingerings consist of groupings of fingers 1-2-3 and 1-2-3-4. The easiest way for the student to experience this is in the keys of D-flat, G-flat, and B Major. In these scales, fingers 2-3 and 2-3-4 play the groups of two and three black keys, thumbs play the white keys. These are easy scales to play hands together because the crossings are simultaneous. Through practice in which the student blocks the 2-3 and 2-3-4 groups the patterns are obvious. Even the key of F Major, which utilizes only one black key, can be learned in the same fashion. Once this concept of alternating groups of 3s and 4s is understood, the larger collection of scales (C, G, D, A, and E) with its nonsimultaneous crossings can be dealt with. The remaining E-flat, A-flat, and B-flat scales still utilize crossings of 3s and 4s with identical left hand fingerings and the right hand 4th finger always playing a B-flat. Boiling down scale fingering to a basic fingering concept makes learning and remembering scale fingering much easier for students. It also provides them with a model for determining fingering for scalar passages in their repertoire. Again, the student has learned something which will ser ve them in the future. This type of learning seems to be fading in this age of testoriented education. I believe we do a great service to our students when we provide them with these examples of practical, valuable learning. Students need to be shown how today’s work and learning enhances their abilities to grow and understand even greater things tomorrow.

Teaching key and scale as theory concepts
The theoretical construction of a scale provides the basis for understanding keys and harmony. When teaching scale construction theory, we need to remember that this is not the same as teaching scales for technical study. I have encountered many students who have played major scales in all keys, and yet have no theoretical understanding of key. As has been discussed in this department on many occasions, a good understanding of music theory is essential for good reading skills. One of the best ways to avoid the confusion of technical and theoretical scales is to introduce the concept of scale through use of tetrachords or some other division of the scale between the hands. I find the area of scales and keys to be especially problematic for the teacher who does not look beyond the pages of the method book and thoughtfully consider the core concept of tonality. Many publications will present one particular key at a time. For example, the student will be presented the key of G major, see the scale which it uses, and play many pieces in that key. We are inclined to think that this then presents the concept of scale and key when, in fact, all it does is present that one particular key. The same issue is often found with the presentation and use of major five-finger patterns. The concept that must be communicated to the student regarding scale and key is the pattern of whole and half steps used to construct every major scale—WWHWWWH. Before the student
CLAVIER COMPANION

The challenge of teaching technical concepts
The technical activities we assign students generally involve the use of patterns—five-finger patterns, scales, arpeggios, etc. Reasons for the use of these patterns include the learning of fingering principles and the development of comfort in all keyboard topographies. However, the greatest reason for the use of patterns in technical work is to allow the student to focus on their hands and fingers and how they work. Unfortunately, there are too many times when I meet a student whose technical experience has been playing all the major and minor five-finger patterns, and yet he is unable to play any of them with any control of his hand. We must be sure we are teaching technique and not just the theoretical patterns. When teaching technique to beginning students the teacher has to boil down all they know about playing the piano until the most basic essentials remain. In the area of technique, I focus the first years of study on control of the hand—maintaining a good rounded hand shape, fingers resting upon the keys (not “flying” and exhibiting excess tension), firm first joints in the fingers. Of course, the mastery of technical skills is dependent upon repetition, thus the use of simple patterns. However, the focus must remain on the hand and fingers. I find that if I successfully communicate technical concepts of firmness/relaxation and control at the elementary level, the student’s technical skills grow easily and naturally.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012

39



Clavier Companion - January/February 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clavier Companion - January/February 2012

Clavier Companion - January/February 2012
Contents
Editor's Page: New discoveries
Variations: Tackling a twelve-year old's slump
Musings: Creative being and the disciplined life
An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
The story of music on board the RMS Titanic
The enchanted world of piano fairy tales
Jazz & Pop: The rhythms of jazz: Syncopation
Music Reading: Recipes for effective teaching
Perspectives: Coping with burnout
Technology: Virtual reality in the piano studio
Tech Tips
First Looks: What Music Means To Me
New music reviews
CD & DVD reviews
News & Notes
Pupil Saver
Keyboard Kids' Companion
Advertiser Index
Questions & Answers
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Clavier Companion - January/February 2012
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover2
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Contents
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 2
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 3
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Editor's Page: New discoveries
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 5
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Variations: Tackling a twelve-year old's slump
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 7
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Musings: Creative being and the disciplined life
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 9
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 11
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 12
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 13
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 14
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 15
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 16
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 17
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - The story of music on board the RMS Titanic
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 19
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 20
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 21
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 22
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 23
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 24
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 25
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 26
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 27
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 28
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 29
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - The enchanted world of piano fairy tales
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 31
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 32
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 33
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 34
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 35
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Jazz & Pop: The rhythms of jazz: Syncopation
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 37
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Music Reading: Recipes for effective teaching
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 39
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 40
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 41
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Perspectives: Coping with burnout
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 43
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 44
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 45
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Technology: Virtual reality in the piano studio
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Tech Tips
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 48
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 49
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - New music reviews
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 51
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 52
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 53
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - CD & DVD reviews
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 55
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - News & Notes
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Pupil Saver
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 58
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 59
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Keyboard Kids' Companion
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 61
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Advertiser Index
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 63
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Questions & Answers
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover3
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover4
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