piano fingers

The other month I stumbled on my very first piano tutor book from when I was a seven-year-old. The thing that struck me, as I thumbed through the pages, was that my music teacher had written the word “fingering” on almost every page! I can still hear the frustration in his voice as he yet again tried to explain to me the pitfalls of using “any old finger.”

As a piano teacher myself now, it fascinates me that some students have a natural tendency towards following fingering and others, like me, need constant nagging!

Light bulb!

Most sheet music editions have all the fingering suggestions carefully printed but one of my adult students was learning an arrangement without any fingering. In times past, I would pencil in my suggestions but this time I asked him to go away and work out what fingering would work best. The result was amazing! Not only had he enjoyed “taking ownership” of his fingering but it had made him think long and hard about  [···]

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Ninja ScalesI didn’t understand my teacher!

Each piano lesson was the same. Half an hour of scales followed by half an hour of Bach! I hated it!!!

Needless to say, I didn’t want to practise scales between lessons. What was the point? He certainly never told me if there was one. It just seemed like a pointless half hour of boredom each week.

Fast forward on. Now I am the teacher trying to encourage my students to practise scales!!! How ironic!

Sell the Benefits

As humans, we are much more motivated to do something if we think it will benefit us.

So what are the benefits of scales? Have we discussed them with our students? What do they think the benefits are? Here’s a few to get started: [···]

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X-RatingHave you noticed that almost every product online has a rating? It’s an easy way to help you decide whether you should buy something based on the number of stars awarded by other consumers.

Let’s move this discussion to the world of music teaching. Take scales for example. Often an exam syllabus will require a number of exercises to be learnt. Here are some of the problems I was finding as a teacher:

X Which scales was the pupil supposed to be learning through the week?

X Which exercises were weaker than others therefore requiring extra practice at home and attention in lessons?

X How could I get students to give as much attention to the exercises in the back of their scale books as the ones in the front?

X How could I, and indeed the student, get an overview as to how close they were to reaching the requirements of the particular grade (or standard) they were studying for?

X How could I motivate them to do more scale practice?

Enter the X-Rating system!!! After some deliberation, I came up with the idea of  [···]

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