My student Iliana came to her lesson having carefully practiced the piece I had assigned to her, The Superheroes from Piano Town Level One. It was well-learned except for one problem: she was stopping at each and every bar line.
This is a common situation. The video below shows exactly how we worked through the piece to correct the problem.
I left this video intact so you can see the pacing and amount of time we spent on each task. Iliana plays the piece through at the beginning so you'll know what it sounded like when we began.
The goal of this kind of practice is to create a series of discrete tasks that can be completed successfully. The Post-Its help focus both teacher and student on each task and make it easier to assess whether it's been completed successfully.
When you begin to introduce this kind of practice, do it in very small doses - just two minutes can be enough. It takes concentration and persistence. Iliana has lots of experience working this way and is a also particularly patient child.
Here are the 9 steps:
- Explain the trouble the student is having without judgment. Remember, she's doing the best she can. Express in clear, simple language what the problem is and how you'll help fix it. If she doesn't understand the goal, it will be impossible to achieve.
- Correct any visual trouble the student is having with the score.
This might include having the student connect the beams on eighth notes (quavers), writing in "cue notes" at the end of a system, whiting out bar lines, adding additional fingerings.
- Isolate a small passage with post-its. Start with a measure that's already correct.
- Move the post-it. Add on notes one-at-a-time. Start with a correct portion and add to the front of the phrase. This works best if the student takes charge of moving the post-it. For this task I like to use small square Post-Its that cover up about a measure of the music.
- The student should help assess the success of each task. How's that go? What did you think of that one? Is there anything else we should do? Are we ready to move on?
- Demonstrate the correct sound of each "added" note phrase. She's been hearing it played incorrectly all week - she needs a chance to hear it correctly.
- Say "yes" to any suggestion the student offers. It shows she's engaged.
This includes covering up notes, adding fingerings, starting at a certain place, expressing enthusiasm. Even if it's not the best idea, try it and discover why it didn't work!
- Stay on task. When Iliana started a phrase in the wrong place on the piano, notice that I explained and gently guided her hand. This was not the time to work on note-reading and her errors were not caused by anything other than concentrating too hard.
- Add the metronome. If the metronome is too distracting, tap gently or play a simple note or two to guide the rhythm a bit more flexibly.