National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy – Thursday 4:30

Randall Faber is giving a Publisher Showcase workshop highlighting the new My First Piano Adventure books, published by FJH.

Dr. Faber began by asking teachers about their experiences teaching young children. He asked what some of the common challenges are with this age group. Answers included:
*Short attention span
*Undeveloped motor movements
*Don’t want to sit still

What motivates young children? Play. Activity.

These books are designed to promote active learning and playful fun as the children begin piano lessons. One of the first important objectives is for the child to develop internal rhythm. Dr. Faber states that the problem for students is not that they can’t mathematically grasp the concept of counting to 4, but that they have never internalized rhythm.

Students are also encouraged to explore sounds at the piano with a fun improvisatory song. A video clip of Nancy Faber with a student was shown to demonstrate how this works in teaching.

Dr. Faber continues to walk us through the techniques introduced in the books and illustrate how these are presented to the young student. He briefly explains that the Writing Book includes both written and listening activities.

The books are also designed to help students learn how to become sensitive to the music and develop musicality in their playing from the first couple of lessons. Teachers are encouraged to get to know their students and appeal to their own individual sense of play in the way that they conduct their lessons. Teachers should feel free to adapt the pieces and tailor them to the students’ interests.

Teachers must monitor their students closely to determine what they have really learned. Teaching is all in the teacher’s head. The only thing that really matters is what the student has actually learned. He had a volunteer from the audience join him at the piano to play the song If You’re Happy that is designed to help the student review the key names. (I really liked this one!)

Audience members look on during the presentation as they follow along in the free books provided by FJH, including: Lesson Books A, B and C and Writing Book A.

Next, Dr. Faber pointed out the games in the back of the book that will help familiarize students with the grand staff long before they actually begin reading notation on the grand staff.

On to Book B, where the understanding that any finger can play on any key is emphasized and the student begins to play pieces notated on the grand staff. The concepts developed are the same as those in the Primer Level of the Piano Adventures series, however, the student moves more slowly and the books provide for additional reinforcement of concepts and techniques before the student moves on to the next concept or technique.

Students learn to recognize musical patterns and begin developing conceptual memory skills from a young age (what a valuable skill!). The “top line A” is the first note introduced in the bass clef, following Middle C. From there, the students’ understanding of step-wise motion introduced at the beginning of the book is utilized when the next piece quickly employs the use of G, F and E below the A.

Reading is a combination of reading linearly and knowing note names. Students are taught to see notes and patterns in relation to the whole.

Dr. Faber paused in his presentation to answer questions from curious audience members. Book A is pre-reading. Book B is steps on the staff. Book C is skips on the staff. The three books take the place of the Primer book and a student is ready to move directly into Level 1 upon completion. These books are designed for 5-6 year old beginners; whereas the Primer book is designed for 7-8 year old beginners.

Lastly, a very brief overview of Book C. Famous composers are introduced by the “friends” that have been a part of the students’ musical journey. They are exposed to many wonderful themes throughout this book.

Careful attention to the introduction of notes on lines is given so that students not only understand the concept of reading them, but also develop the coordination necessary to play them. Even while learning skips, the student continues to review stepwise motion.

Gold Star Performance books are a great supplement to these books as well. Dr. Faber concluded his presentation by announcing their new on-line piano teacher’s guide for the Primer Level of their Piano Adventure series.

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