The First Piano Lesson
Lesson 5: The First Piano Lesson
The first piano lesson is really quite special. It is the best chance I have of convincing a child that they will have nothing but fun with the piano. It’s the first chance for them to speak the language of music, and I am determined they will enjoy it and want to do it more. All you must really accomplish in this first lesson is that they like doing it, and they like you helping them. To accomplish this, it must be fun.
Still, there are skills to be learned, so I have created a list. Depending on the age of the child, you will be able to do more or less of the list. If you finish early, start over. They will love this approach. Here we go!
First Lesson Activities
Play something lively that they know. If you can’t play, find a recording of some piano music - a CD or a video on Youtube. Listen to it. If you can, take a moment to sit at the piano and play a few songs until you find one they know. Get them to smile with recognition. Take their index finger and play Middle C with it. Ask them to do it without you.
If they smash down lots of keys, say gently (like a game show host soon to offer valuable prizes), “Oh, no, we have to play the most special note in the world. Only that one special note.” Sometimes I add, “Otherwise, the piano will explode,” obviously comically.
Then, take out a set of numbered stickers and immediately start putting them on the keys. Number one goes on Middle C. Ask the child if they want to put on a sticker. Do it quickly. Within thirty seconds or so, there is a sudden new order to the keys: numbers!
Try a familiar song:
| 3 3 3 * | 3 3 3 * | 3 5 1 2 | 3 * * * |
| 4 4 4 4 | 4 3 3 3 | 3 2 2 3 | 2 * 5 * |
Now ask them to take their index finger and walk up the keys, from number one to twelve. If they play a mistake laugh and say, “Oh, that’s okay, everyone plays wrong notes. Keep going!” If they need you to take their finger and do it for them, do so. Once they physically get the idea of pressing down keys with their index finger, you are off to the races.
Next ask them to play four times on each white key as you go up. This would be 1111 2222 3333 4444 5555, etc, but don’t insist on a rhythm, just let them try to play four in a row. Younger kids may only be able to play two keys, like 11 22 33 44 55 66, etc. Play the FOURS PIANO GAME. Even if it is only one key, praise them and move on.
So far there has been nothing difficult at all, and that’s the way we must keep it. Now play glissandos up and down the piano. Ask which goes up (to the right) and which goes down (to the left). Let them play glissandos. Yes, it will be noisy. Let it be noisy. Show that noise doesn’t bother you.
Now ask for the top key. Then ask for the lowest key. Now try playing the keys 1-12 up again, just for review. This is their first skill, and we must make it fun. Sing along and make up words if you have to, but make them smile. Now ask for the keys 3 3 3. Then ask for 3 3 3 again. Show them that they have just played the beginning of the song Jingle Bells.
Play a game of looking at the black keys and finding the pattern. The pattern is alternating groups of two and three black keys. Now remind them that the key with the number one sticker is right next to the two black keys. Ask them to find more C’s (the note C is always the white key to the left of the two black keys.) You point to two black keys, and they have to find which white key is to the left of it.
Take Their Temperature
Are they exhausted or exhilarated? Depending on how fast you have gone, and how young the child is, you may or may not have completed the above list. You have to be very careful at this point. An older child will want to go further. A younger child will need the security of perhaps going over all the steps again, put in “new clothes,” of course.
You will have found that they like a couple of these games a lot. If so, play them and run them into the ground as only a child can with something they are taken with. You are looking for the point that interests them. Once you have that, you have the first key into their musical imagination. Take note if it. It is worth its weight in gold.
Get up to leave, and I’ll bet you $100 they are still sitting at the piano, fascinated with some aspect of that we have done, playing a song. We have introduced a child happily to the piano without referring to any sheet music symbols whatsoever, and only by reference to the keyboard itself. The only reference to a page is in regards to the songbook, which contains easy-to understand numbers.
Don’t Assign Anything
Don’t assign them anything. Wait a week and come back. See if they go to the piano by themselves. Don’t even think of asking them to practice. You are, by omitting the natural demand to practice, letting them set their own terms with the instrument. The whole trick is to get them to come to the instrument by themselves, and they cannot do that if you ask them. Let them take the time to do it by themselves.
If they do not play anything that week, don’t even mention it. But one week later, try again with the above list. 90% of children will pick up on the idea of the piano and at least be somewhat fascinated. Do not give in to the urge to have them work at it. Do the opposite.
And if they don’t play, you go play. That’s right, if they take no interest, you take over and see how long they can stay away. The point of the first piano lesson is to have a kid who wants to have a second piano lesson.
(This title comes in two versions: Printed $19.95, and eBook $9.95)
COURSE ONE: TEACHING TOOLS
COURSE TWO: TEACHING BACKGROUND
COURSE THREE: PIANO GAMES